Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mumbai Workshop: The Importance of Taking Complete Exposure Histories

After a long trip from Udaipur, we came to Mumbai for a workshop given to physicians from ESIC (A government department that provides healthcare and insurance to workers) The workshop focused on some of the big issues facing the health of workers in India today. The first presentation was from Dr. Arthur Frank, a Professor of Public Health Chair at Drexel University's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.

He stressed the importance of taking complete exposure histories when diagnosing patients and examining workplace conditions. His talk was very impressive because he was able to root all that he was saying in his real-world experience. He listed symptoms and had the audience ask questions to determine the cause of work-related illnesses. He made each scenario seem like a riddle or an episode of CSI. I really enjoyed it.

He told an amazing story about a patient came in who was suffering from lead poisoning who actually worked for the EPA. After Dr. Frank went through his job habits, daily routine and hobbies he discovered this patient was a gun enthusiast who enjoyed going to shooting ranges. It turns out he was making his own lead bullets in an unventilated room which was making him sick. So it seems no matter how much awareness you have about the toxicity of a substance, you must remember the presence of such toxins in daily life.

In the United States children used to play in piles of asbestos outside of factories. In a country like India, where extreme growth in industry and construction is taking place, hazardous materials are everywhere. This made me think about the type of education our organization needs to provide to workers. We need them to fully understand what might make them sick so they can apply such lessons to situations outside the workplace.

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