Construction Workers Vulnerable To Respiratory Diseases

Bangalore City Environment Health

Silicosis and other respiratory diseases increased by 25 percent among construction workers.

By Manasi Pawar

Bengaluru, March 19, 2019

According to the National Human Rights Organization, Karnataka is one of the most affected states in India for silicosis.

Sidhappa, a construction worker, works on contract basis and struggle every day. Now he is working in building construction at Kumbalgodu, with five other workers.

“I am suffering from heavy coughing, breathlessness”, he said, “The doctors said that I can’t work for a few days. But there is no one in my family to earn money, I am the only one, so I can’t sit idle at home.”

According to the data by the Victoria Hospital, last year, more than 50 workers were diagnosed with silicosis and other Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). Dr Nagraj, H.O.D Pulmonology said, “Silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica over a long period of time. I have seen a lot of construction workers come with respiratory problems because of not taking preventive measure during the work.”

According to the National Health Portal of India, silica is a crystal-like material abundantly found in sand, rock, and quartz.

Another construction worker at Kumbalgodu, said, “We don’t wear masks because we don’t have money to buy them. The contractor doesn’t provide us with one. A lot of people here cough all the time, but we have to work anyway.”

Dr Huliraj, who has 50 years experience as a pulmonologist, said, “I have been treating silicosis patients for the last 25 years. If the disease stays for a long time, it can cause tuberculosis. It often takes a decade of exposure to be diagnosed with the disease. If not silica, there are other COPD that the workers without masks, might be affected with. This disease can be cured if treated properly.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization started public awareness for the prevention of the disease, and the WHO objective is to eliminate silicosis from the world.