Occupational lung diseases are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in India. These diseases are caused by inhalation of dust particles or chemicals. One such lung disease is silicosis, caused by inhalation of silica dust during mining. While exact statistics are not available, silicosis is believed to affect 10-20% of the mine workers in India. The disease prevalence is dependent on the particle concentration and duration of exposure.
Rajasthan, a state well known for its marble and stone mines, has a very high number of silicosis cases. Silicosis causes severe scarring of the lungs, and sufferers become very short of breath and develop a troubling cough. Silicosis also predisposes people to tuberculosis. Under this double burden of diseases, people suffer greatly and often die prematurely. Please view the video below to learn how this preventable disease is so devastating.
In India’s Rajasthan desert, the work of mining sandstone can be lethal. Silicosis, a slow, irreversible loss of lung function, is easily preventable with masks, but workers wear little protection in the blazing heat. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on how neglect, social indifference and poor education mean that laws for workers’ safety are rarely enforced.
Since 1994, IDS has partnered with GRAVIS, an organization based in Rajasthan that works to prevent and treat silicosis. GRAVIS has provided medical screenings, worked with employers, and educated workers on preventive measures such as wearing masks and limiting the dust exposure.
GRAVIS also works with local government authorities on occupational safety measures. In addition, GRAVIS workers hold periodic meetings with miners and their families to raise nutritional awareness and to educate them about the relationship between silicosis and tuberculosis. They hold demonstrations of lung safety measures, such as use of respiratory masks, wet drilling, and medical surveillance programs. GRAVIS also helps mine workers obtain referrals to major health centers for additional help and medical care.
With the current funds from IDS, GRAVIS will reach out to about 15 mines and will screen 900 miners. Mine owners of these 15 mines will also be trained in occupational safety.