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Construction Workers & Respiratory Diseases

Skyscrapers, metro, new roads, over bridges, townships, malls…our cities are growing at break-neck speed and we’re super proud about it. But how much do we care about the construction workers who toil tirelessly, day and night, to make these landmarks a reality? Kerala is home to millions of construction workers and majority of them are migrants from states like Bangladesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. But unfortunately, many of these workers die an early death or end up with serious respiratory illnesses simply because they don’t wear protective air masks at work.

Construction workers face many dangers at work like falls, injuries and burns. However, the most important yet ignored risk factor is construction dust. Estimates say that thousands of construction workers die in India every year due to occupational lung diseases caused by construction dust and fumes. Though our laws prescribe mandatory use of PPE (preventive protective equipment) at construction sites, none of the workers follow the rules because they aren’t aware of the impending health dangers or no one takes the effort to make them understand the importance of wearing a mask.

Constant exposure to stone, brick, cement, asbestos, paint and metal dust at work can lead to serious respiratory diseases like:

  • Occupational asthma - as their lungs become extremely sensitive due to continued exposure to chemical, dust and particulate matter.
  • Emphysema or breathlessness due to cement dust and paint.
  • Chronic bronchitis, blocked airways and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections due to accumulation of construction dust in the lungs.
  • Asbestosis or scarred lungs due to continuous inhalation of asbestos dust.
  • Silicosis or lung inflammation/ scarring due to fine silica particles that settles in the lungs.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD wherein the airways become inflamed and the air sacs become less elastic.
  • Lung cancer due to constant and prolonged exposure to dust and harsh chemical fumes.

Hence it is important that the system ensures that rules are implemented strictly and all employees at construction sites (including supervisors) wear N95 air masks to prevent respiratory illnesses.

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