A Supreme Court-appointed expert committee has found that 16 per cent of the workers engaged in the ship-breaking industry at Alang in Gujarat were suffering from asbestosis, a disease caused by exposure to asbestos.
In its 200-page report submitted to the court, the 12-member committee headed by Union Environment and Forests Secretary Pradipto Ghosh, suggested various measures to improve workers’ conditions, check diseases and the high accident accident rate among the workers. The committee found that the accident rate of two workers every 1,000 in the ship breaking yard at Alang was several times higher than the 0.34 worker per 1,000 in the accident-prone mining industry. Noting that exposure to all kinds of asbestos can lead to cancer of the lung and pleura (mesothelioma), it said “workers with radiological changes suggestive of asbestosis are at higher risk than workers with normal chest X-Rays”.
The committee, set up by the court in February when the Clemenceau docked, recommended that workers showing radiological abnormalities suggesting asbestosis should be submitted to High Resolution Computerized Tomography, a better diagnostic tool than chest radiography for asbestosis.
It called for strict compliance with the 1995 Supreme Court directives on workers exposed to asbestos and the “asbestos schedule of Factory Rules” under the Factories Act to arrest the current trend showing higher incidence of asbestosis among workers. It also stressed the need for awareness and training among all the stakeholders in the industry.