Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Study Finds Increased Silicosis Risk in Gujarat

A new study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health finds that over one third (34%) of females working in a quartz-crushing mill in rural Gujarat, India are showing symptoms of either silicosis or other related respiratory diseases.

The study shows that most of the cases of silicosis, silico-tuberculosis, and tuberculosis came from exposure of less than three years and that by and large these workers are suffering from more acute forms of illness than in years previous. While silicosis has always been considered an occupational health risk to those working with quartz dust, it was not until recently that such acute forms of the disease started becoming so prevalent.

According to the article, the more mechanized fashion of creating quartz powder is to blame. The process is described below (page 1).

Quartz powder is produced by placing quartz stone into a mechanical jaw crusher, where large stone is broken into smaller pieces. These pieces are trans-
ported by conveyor belt to a disintegrator, which crushes them into powder. Finally, a vibrating screen separates out powders of various fineness. All these processes generate large amounts of free silica dust, placing workers risk of silicosis and silico-tuberculosis.

Read the full text of the article, "Respiratory Health of Female Stone Grinders with Free Silica Dust Exposure in Gujarat, India" to get a more detailed understanding of the health crisis. Traditionally, most occupational diseases take much longer to progress, but this team's recent findings add further evidence that newer forms of technology seem to be compressing the duration of exposure exponentially.

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