One-third of Bangladesh ship-breaking workers at high risk of lung diseases: Study

An organisation involved in studying work hazard-related issues has found that 33 percent of all workers involved in ship-breaking activity are at high risk of lung ailments.

Published : 2 Feb 2017, 05:57 PM
Updated : 2 Feb 2017, 05:57 PM

On Thursday, Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) revealed its research findings at the Reporters' Unity on Thursday. 

OSHE Chairperson Saki Rezwana said, the study conducted between Jul 26 and Jul 30 last year and between Jan 28 and Jan 29 this year on 101 workers found that 33 of them reported asbestos deposits on 60 percent of their bodies.

Of them, eight workers were found to have a build-up of the toxic mineral in 60 percent of their lungs.

Asbestos-related diseases are determined on the basis of International Labour Organization (ILO) specified limits (1/1 reticular opacity) and by analysing the professional activities of workers in the final 10 years of their employment.

The affected individuals were administered spirometry tests and nebulisation during the course of the study. 

They were also advised weekly check-ups and pulmonary tests once a month.

The survey researcher and Chennai Sree Balaji Medical College and Hospital Assistant Professor Dr Muralidhar told that asbestos is a mineral which is used in the shipbuilding process and is very harmful to human health.

A single fibre of the mineral making its way to the body may lead to the lung disease asbestosis, he said.

It may eventually also lead to cancer of the lungs, he added.

OSHE Vice Chairperson Dr SM Morshed, replying to queries from journalists, said ship owners and workers refused to acknowledge that ships which were demolished contained asbestos. 

He said Bangladesh imported nearly 800,000 kilograms asbestos worth over $438,000 during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

This is despite the fact that importing the mineral is banned in 50 countries, he said.

The law related to import contains no directive in this regard, he added.

Dr Faizul Ahsan Shuvro, who was also involved in the survey, said those with 60 percent of their lungs contaminated by asbestos may still hope to have control over the effects of the ailment through treatment.

"In the interest of the safety of workers and in order to prevent them from getting lung cancer, ship owners must build up awareness on the issue," he said.