Although not new, Silicosis disease is causing death to many hard working labourers. Workers at many factories in Burimari, where dusting stones without proper safety equipment causing this fatal disease. Curable if diagnosed at early stage, the disease has spread amongst many in the area. Some organizations, with the help of government are working hard to enforce factory owners to take measures to mitigate the issue.
S Dilip Roy
At least 18 labourers died of Silicosis disease in the last three years at Burimari land port area of Patgram upazila in Lalmonirhat district. Several hundreds of labourers dusting stone and working with Dolochun (fertilizer) in the land port area are diagnosed with the disease.
An expert team from Chest Disease Institute, Dhaka and Rangpur Medical College conducted a two-day medical camp at Burimari land port area on the 28th and 29th August this year. It was arranged by a non-government organization “Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS)”. Officials from Labour Ministry were present with the team. The expert team conducted examinations using a special X-ray machine on 410 labourers, out of which 200 were diagnosed with Silicosis disease.
The head of the team, Researcher of Chest Disease Institute Dr. Fozle Rabbi said that most of the labourers who work with Dolochun, ceramic and stone factories at Burimari land port area are suffering from Silicosis disease”. The symptoms include; chest pain, lung problems and fever as dust from stone and Dolochun enters into their lung easily. Statistics show that at least 18 labourers died from the Silicosis disease at Burimari land port area in the last three years and many labourers are carrying the disease, of them 50 labourers are in critical condition. Furthermore, Dr. Fozle Rabbi said that the Silicosis is not a new disease, but it's emergence in Bangladesh is new. Burimari land port area is the first place where s disease has been first found in Bangladesh. “I think many people who work in different stone, ceramic and tiles factories in the country may also be carrying Silicosis disease. Dust from stone, Dolochun is the primary reason of this disease” he said.
Team member, physician of Chest Disease Institute in Dhaka, Dr. Hafizur Rahman said, people who work as day labourers at stone and Dolochun factories are the main victims of the disease. “We are trying to find all who are carrying Silicosis disease at Burimari land port area and its adjoining areas of Patgram upazila in Lalmonirhat. We are also providing treatment to the people who are suffering from the disease in the area”, he said.
Another member of the team, Chest Disease Expert of Rangpur Medical College Hospital Dr. Tapos Kumar said, “Silicosis disease is increasing in an alarming rate at Burimari land port area. Many labourers at this area work at stone and Dolochun factories without taking any prevention against dust. Both owners and labourers of the factories were not aware about Silicosis disease.” He also said that any labourer working for two years without taking any preventive system against the dust is certain to catch the deadly disease.
The Assistant Executive Director of BILS, Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed said that his organization first started experiments on Silicosis disease at Burimari in May this year. His organization has sent over hundreds of labourers to Chest Disease Institute in Dhaka. All these labourers were diagnosed with Silicosis after examination. “We started the campaign to bring awareness about Silicosis disease among the labourers and factory owners at Burimari land port area. We included Chest Disease Institute in Dhaka in our camping – identifying Silicosis disease amongst the people, providing them treatment and creating awareness to prevent the disease in the area”, he said.
Sahera Banu (30), at Burimari village said that her husband, Jalal Uddin died of Silicosis disease in January this year. Not aware about the disease, her husband was wrongly treated by local physicians. She added, “My husband worked as day labourer at Mollah Stone Dusting Factory for the last four years and was the only the earning source of the family. His death has brought untold suffering to me and my three children”.
Jafor Islam (15), at Sree Rampur village said that his father Jelal Uddin died of Silicosis disease in December 2011. He worked as a day labourer at Burimari Hens Food Factory at Burimari land port area for three years. His father faced chest pain, lung problem and fever for long. He died after suffering eight months. The family members demanded compensation from the factory owner but without any avail.
Moshiur Rahman (40) of Sree Rampur village said, “I used to work as a day labourer at Border Ceramic Factory at Burimari land port - I suddenly started feeling chest pain, lung problem and fever since February this year. I lost my energy to keep working. I was taking local treatment for Tuberculosis. I realized in May that I am suffering from Silicosis disease after laboratory test in Chest Disease Institute in Dhaka. Now I am taking regular treatment of the disease, and feeling better than before.”
The President of Burimari Land Port Labourer Welfare Federation, Sofor Uddin said that there are 13 factories for dusting stone and Dolochun at Burimari land port area. At least two thousand labourers work in these factories. The labourers working at these factories take no preventive system. Dust from stone easily enters into their lungs through mouth and nose. “The factory owners never provided any preventive system for the labourers neither did they provide any compensation to the families affected by Silicosis disease” he said.
Day labourer Ataur Rahman and others here said that they will not work in these factories without talking preventive system. If the factory owners provide them preventive system, only then, they will join their work. The owner of Onuvoba Stone Factory at Burimari land port Atiqur Rahman Raju said that both factory owners and labourers were unaware about Silicosis disease. Now, all the factory owners must take initiative to provide proper preventive system for the labourers during their work. Unfortunately, he had no answer when asked why the Silicosis victims' families didn't get any compensation from the factory owners.
The Burimari UP chairman Asir Uddin said that the factories for dusting stone and Dolochun started setting up at Burimari land port in 2002. Before working at these factories, the labourers were either farmers or loaders in the land port area. “If the factory owners had provided proper preventive equipment to the labourers, Silicosis disease could've been avoided – some labourers have already died and some are in critical condition, and many are being treated,” he said.
Lalmonirhat Civil Surgeon Dr. Jahangir Alam Sarker confirmed that, if the disease is diagnosed in the early stages it is very much possible to cure taking proper treatment. The disease becomes fatal if not diagnosed early and treated immediately. The disease damages the resistance of the body, and medicine can't bring any result. “We are trying to cure all the labourers who are suffering from the disease at Burimari land port area and its adjoining areas in Lalmonirhat, we hope that we will do better as expert-team from Chest Disease Institute in Dhaka working in the field level,” he said.
Expert team-member, also the Labour Ministry's Visitor (Factory and Medical) Dr. Syed Abul Ehsan admitted that all the factories for dusting stone and Dolochun are unhygienic and the owners of these factories are not aware about preventive system for the labourers. “I have already served caution notice to all the factory owners ordering them ensure hygienic system in the factories and ensure preventive system to all the labourers. I will take legal action under the labour law should the factory owners fail to follow the caution notice”, he said.
(R) thedailystar.net 2012