China: Work safety gaps suffocate minersPublished by MAC on 2010-02-15
Source: China Daily (2010-02-08)
Work safety gaps suffocate miners
8 February 2010
Black lung is China's No 1 occupational disease, with about 610,000 registered patients nationwide as of November last year, said Cai Rongta, a professor in labor health and occupational disease at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province.
Almost 80 percent of the 14,000 cases of occupational diseases reported to the Ministry of Health in 2008 were black lung, he said, adding that the disease costs the country an average of about RMB8 billion yuan [roughly US$1.1 billion] every year.
Experts warn that the high number of victims reflects serious flaws in the monitoring of occupational safety across China, and have accused local labor and health authorities of failing to protect workers. However, most sufferers are concerned about what they will pay for treatment. Scientists are yet to develop medication that can reverse or totally cure the effects of black lung.
A patient's best chance of survival is to undergo surgery to "clean out" the lungs, health experts say. Paying for the procedure, however, is far beyond most farmers' reach.
Reports of black lung among farmers highlights gaps in the government's supervision to ensure healthy working conditions, said Zhai Yujuan, a law professor at Shenzhen University in Guangdong province.