Human Trafficking

by Michael_Koger

Human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, occurs in every region of the globe and constitutes a major public health problem.

There has been much attention toward human trafficking over the last decade, and it has many physical and mental health consequences. The data on these illegal arrangements are not accurate since it is secretive; however, there may currently be 27 million people worldwide who are victims of this financially profitable endeavor [1].

Human trafficking is the exploitation of men, women, and children in various industries whether for labor or sex. The range of these industries has no boundary; however, most women and children who become victims of it have to participate in industries such as commercial sex, pornography, prostitution, and sex tourism [1, 2].

Trafficking in the United States

In the United States, human trafficking is especially common in New York, Texas, Nevada, and California.  More than 15,000 adults and children come to that country each year for this, and four-fifths of them are required to work in the sex industry.  Half of them are children.  Victims of human trafficking sometimes cross international borders, or they may remain in their home country where the agents force them to work [1, 2].

Of those who come to the United States, most originate in East Asia or the Pacific region of the globe.

Mental and Physical Abuse

Victims of human trafficking may experience physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse.  The agents often coerce them to consume alcohol or illicit drugs.  The conditions where they live and work can be unsanitary, and the process of transportation of these individuals tends to be unsafe.  They may labor in environments with poor ventilation [1, 2].

These workers commonly have to operate heavy equipment without adequate training.  Should their work expose them to dust, fumes, or chemicals, they do not always have access to gloves, masks, or other personal protective gear.  Moreover, there may be extremes of temperature for them, and the result can be frostbite, heat-related illness, exhaustion, injuries, and dehydration [2].

Some of the assignments entail repetitive motion, and the victims are at risk for the development of medical conditions from that.

There is separation from family, and the agents sometimes threaten relatives in the event that there appears to be an intent or effort to report or expose the scheme.  The workers do not always know their own physical location, and the traffickers confiscate important identity and other legal documents from them [1, 2].


Human trafficking is a global public health problem, and its illegal nature makes it difficult for people in the community to identify those who become subject to it.


  1. University at Albany.  School of Public Health.  (2013).  Human trafficking:  A public health perspective on a human rights issue.  Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  2. World Health Organization.  (2012).  Understanding and addressing violence against women.  Human trafficking.  Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  3. The photo shows illicit drug paraphernalia.  Reprinted with permission from Centers for Disease Control/Debora Cartagena.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 12/02/2013, Michael_Koger
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