The problem is not being recognized nor addressed, Pandita said, because governments and industry in the region are prioritizing economic growth over people.
"I think it's complete apathy from the government, from the industry and from all of us as a society. We're just too insensitive. We think it's OK for people to die producing things. I don't know. I cannot understand," he said.
Wang Fengping fights back tears when asked how her life has changed since she suffered the effects of cadium poisoning after working 15 years in a battery factory in China.
"Before I found myself having the cadium poisoning I felt my life and work were quite happy. Although it was sometimes tiring, but I also found my job rewarding, I liked my job," she said in an interview with CNN.
Wang was a relatively highly paid engineer in charge of maintaining the battery-making machines.
"After this poisoning and my kidney was badly destroyed so my body became very weak," she said, adding that she no longer works due to the effects of kidney failure.
Wang said she has struggled to find a doctor in China willing to certify her illness as an occupational disease, a pre-condition of any claim for compensation.
Pandita said in many cases employees have struggled to even prove they were employed.
"It's coming up as a major issue, especially in China. The first thing they have to do if somebody gets sick, they have to submit their work contract. And many times they don't have that. And employers refuse to give it. So it's a very complicated procedure they're made to go through," he said.
In other cases, workers, especially migrants, are not covered by labor laws. When they get ill, they go home and for employers the problem disappears. A lack of regulation over the use of toxic materials is also exacerbating workplace illness, Pandita added.