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Alarming Prevalence of Silicosis in Rajasthan’s Stone Carving and Mining Industry

In an insightful study led by Prahlad K Sishodiya, a consultant expert in silicosis from the Directorate of Specially Abled Persons, Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of Rajasthan, significant concerns regarding occupational health in the region have been highlighted. The research, focusing on the prevalence of silicosis in the stone carving and sandstone mining industry in Rajasthan, unveils some alarming statistics that underscore the urgent need for effective dust control measures.

Overview of the Study

Rajasthan, a state deeply entrenched in mining and mineral processing activities, has a workforce of approximately 6.2 million people directly or indirectly exposed to the risks of developing silicosis. In response to this occupational hazard, the state government implemented the Rajasthan Policy on ‘Pneumoconiosis including Silicosis Detection, Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation – 2019’. Additionally, an online portal was launched to facilitate the registration, certification, and disbursement of relief to affected individuals.

Findings from the Study

The data collected through the portal indicated that out of 192,143 registrants for silicosis screening, 23,436 cases, including 6,876 fatalities, were certified as having silicosis. A more detailed analysis of 4,977 cases, including 741 deaths, revealed a higher incidence of silicosis in districts with a predominant stone carving industry compared to those focused on sandstone mining. The most affected age group was 36 to 40 years, with the mean age at the time of silicosis diagnosis being 40.1 years and at death 39.7 years.

These findings, as meticulously detailed by Sishodiya, suggest that the prevalence of silicosis is significantly higher in stone carving than in sandstone mining. This distinction is crucial for targeting preventive measures effectively.

Implications and Necessary Actions

The study not only sheds light on the severe health risks associated with these industries but also serves as a call to action for adopting comprehensive dust control measures. The significant difference in trends between the stone carving and sandstone mining industries highlights the need for industry-specific safety protocols.

Recommendations for Prevention and Control

  1. Enhanced Dust Control: Implementing and enforcing rigorous dust suppression techniques, such as wet drilling and the use of appropriate ventilation systems, can substantially reduce silica dust exposure.
  2. Regular Health Screenings: Regular and comprehensive health check-ups for workers can lead to early detection and better management of silicosis.
  3. Worker Education: Educating workers about the risks associated with silica exposure and training them in the use of protective equipment is vital.
  4. Policy Enforcement: Strict enforcement of existing health and safety regulations, along with periodic reviews to ensure they meet the current needs of the workforce, is essential.
  5. Support and Rehabilitation: Ensuring that affected workers have easy access to medical and financial assistance can alleviate the burden of the disease.

Conclusion

The study by Prahlad K Sishodiya is a critical contribution to understanding the occupational hazards faced by workers in Rajasthan’s stone industries. It highlights the disparities in silicosis prevalence between different sectors within the industry and underscores the pressing need for targeted intervention strategies. By adopting the recommended measures, stakeholders can significantly mitigate the health risks associated with silica exposure and improve the quality of life for thousands of workers in the region.

This educational endeavor not only raises awareness about a significant public health issue but also lays down a roadmap for better occupational health practices in Rajasthan and similar regions worldwide.

 

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