The labour class, a great contributor to development, is the one to pay the costs of development. And so, despite environmental and labour laws, over one crore workers in India run the risk of silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhalation of silica dust in occupations such as cement-, glass- and brick-making, quarrying, mining, road-laying and all aspects of construction. Every year, silicosis kills about 30,000 people. Many of them die without treatment; their families seldom get due compensation.
Silicosis was once known as miners’ disease. Inhaling dust at work for years, miners end up with lung fibrosis. Ancillary infections like TB complicate matters. The deaths can be painful. Silicosis is incurable as the lung damage is irreversible; treatment aims at curbing ancillary infections and alleviating symptoms. Earlier, it was prevalent in western and central India and associated with mining and regional industries such as slate-pencil and chalk manufacture, ceramics factories etc. But with rampant development and construction, silicosis cases are seen in all regions.