Every year, millions of Americans are exposed to the risk of occupational illnesses and diseases while performing routine activities at work. These illnesses and diseases can include fatal conditions like cancer and mesothelioma. Recently, the International Labor Organization issued a stronger call for a vigorous international campaign to reduce the risk to workers from occupational diseases.

In a special report titled The Prevention of Occupational Diseases, the International Labor Organization estimates that out of the 2.34 million workplace-related fatalities reported annually, approximately 2.02 million are linked to workplace occupational deaths.

As many as 2 million people are killed every year worldwide from occupational illnesses after workers are exposed to hazards in the workplace. According to the International Labor Organization, which issued a special statement about World Day for Safety and Health at Work, occupational illnesses don’t just reduce a worker’s capacity to live a normal and productive life, but also impact families and communities.

Reducing the risk of occupational disease to workers doesn’t just help keep workers safe, but also increases employer profits and productivity, and reduces the healthcare burden on the state. The International Labor Organization is specifically calling for prevention of workplace illnesses, rather than identification of symptoms and treatment.

Every day, as many as 5,500 workers across the world die from an occupational illness. Many of these illnesses are the result of prolonged exposure to toxic substances and chemicals in the workplace. One of the most well-known examples of workplace illnesses is asbestosis. Chronic exposure to asbestos fibers in the construction industries and other sectors can cause asbestosis and mesothelioma, which can even be fatal. The incidence of black lung disease from exposure to coal dust among coal miners has been well-documented.