Silicosis sucks million lives

In India, a recent estimate shows that, over 3 million workers are exposed to silica dusts at occupations. The inhaled silica dusts have resulted in the fatal lung disease called silicosis, which is an untreatable life threatening disease. It is quite progressive & widespread among all occupational diseases and there is no cure for silicosis, rather than lung transplantations.

Villages of Widows

In India, Telangana, Rajasthan and Gujarat are the major silicosis haunted states. In Rajasthan alone, more than 800,000 workers are affected with silicosis. The villages in these states were commonly called as “villages of widows”, because almost every family in these villages had witnessed death by silicosis. Most of the men’s in these villages works in quarries, mines & other construction related industries, hence they were occupationally exposed to airborne crystalline silica dust and subsequently resulted in silicosis.

Spread and severity of silica

After inhalation, the silica particles penetrate in to the finer passage of the lung and forms fibrous tissue. Prolonged exposures of silica, enlarges the fibrous tissue and produces fibrous masses, reduces the elasticity of lung. This leads to shortness of breath followed by coughing & difficulty in breathing. The persistent inflammation and granuloma formation leads to tissue remodelling and lung impairment. Silicosis also increases the risk of respiratory infections like tuberculosis. The severity of the silicosis also depends on the individual susceptibility, Chemical composition, size of the dust particle and also relies on how long the individual is exposed to the hazardous environmental conditions.

It’s fatal but preventable disease

There is no medical treatment available for the end stage silicosis, rather than lung transplantations, but the disease can be prevented by implementing occupational hygiene in the workplace and also by using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Prior to work, proper Risk assessment should be done on all work activities in the work place. Based on the Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA), preventive maintenance & control measures such as engineering control, substitution, and change in work practices should be implemented. Adequate air control monitoring and environmental sustainability will also curve to maintain the workplace air quality and reduce airborne hazard.

Acts and Applications

To eliminate silicosis, it’s necessary to strictly follow the statuary tools and provide proper statutory protection. According to Factory act of India (1948), it’s mandatory that organization should provide the following:

  • Well ventilated working environment
  • Circulation of fresh air
  • Provisions for protection from dust and fumes
  • Reduction of overcrowding in the workplace
  • Provision of basic occupation health care
  • Occupier responsibility in relation to hazardous substances
  • Rights to worker

Amending the law and strictly following the statutory protocol will helps to remove the hazardous environment and endeavour to get compensation for the occupationally harmed victims. It’s crystal clear that silicosis could be prevented & eradicated, if safety protocols are strictly implemented in workplace.

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