19 April, 2021

Done In By The Dust

A miners’ lung disease invades new occupations

Jitender Gupta
Done In By The Dust

The labour class, a great contributor to development, is the one to pay the costs of development. And so, despite environmental and lab­our laws, over one crore workers in India run the risk of silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhalation of silica dust in occupations such as cement-, glass- and brick-making, quarrying, mining, road-laying and all aspects of construction. Every year, silicosis kills about 30,000 people. Many of them die without treatment; their families seldom get due compensation.

Silicosis was once known as miners’ disease. Inhaling dust at work for years, miners end up with lung fibrosis. Ancillary infe­ctions like TB complicate matters. The deaths can be painful. Silicosis is incurable as the lung damage is irreversible; treatment aims at curbing ancillary infections and alleviating symptoms. Earlier, it was prevalent in western and central India and associated with mining and regional industries such as slate-pencil and chalk manufacture, ceramics factories etc. But with rampant development and construction, silicosis cases are seen...

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