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DEATH INDUSTRY: Pakistan's stone crushing factories take toll on workers

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
7/20/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Laborers at plant fall ill and die from respiratory illnesses

Any type of industry in developing nations are usually seen as good things, but this is not always the case. Pakistan's stone crushing factories, which exist far and away from any sort of regulatory and safety laws, claim the lives of many of its laborers. Dust from the crushed stones lead to respiratory illnesses for many, leading to illness disability and death.

Lack of dust control systems at stone-crushing factories mean silica dust will also affect people in nearby areas. In fact, most crushing units are located in or near residential areas.

Lack of dust control systems at stone-crushing factories mean silica dust will also affect people in nearby areas. In fact, most crushing units are located in or near residential areas.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
7/20/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Pakistan, silica, respiratory illness, workers


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Inside one such factory, near the village of Nut Kallar, young men toil without safety equipment. Breaking down quartz stones into smaller pieces with a hammer, the workers then feed them into a small crusher that will reduce them to the size of chickpeas.

Mixed with silica dust and boric acid with hands or shovels, these minerals are then packed into polythene bags for supply to foundries for the inner lining of furnaces. The facility here has no mechanism to control the dust rising from the crushing or during mixing and packing.

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Many workers there are unaware of the adverse effect of the dust they inhale. Many of these workers then fall sick from deadly silicosis, caused from the silica found in many of the rocks. 

Lack of dust control systems at stone-crushing factories mean silica dust will also affect people in nearby areas. In fact, most crushing units are located in or near residential areas.

Found in rocks, silica, when inhaled, can cause both silicosis and cancer and increase the risk of other lung diseases.

"People working in industries such as cement, mining, plastic, foundry work, glass and stone-crushing are prone to inhaling it unless protective measures are taken," Dr. Khalid Waheed, who has treated several silicosis patients at Lahore's Jinnah Hospital, says. Three of these workers died last year. "Workers aren't provided safety gear to prevent dust inhalation. Silicosis-related deaths could be prevented if factory owners took proper safety measures and their workers underwent medical check-ups every six months."

By the time most silicosis patients are brought to the doctors, they are already at an advanced stage of the disease.

There is hope: Early diagnosis can save lives. As most industries where workers are exposed to silica dust operate in the informal sector, it's hard to guess their number and how many workers they employ. The number of factories could be in the hundreds, that of workers in the thousands.

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