Foshan workers 'at risk' of diseases
2009-February-13 Source: China Daily Website
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More than a third of the workers in Foshan city are at a high risk of contracting an occupational disease.

More than 1 million of the 3 million employed by 50,604 industrial companies in the industrial city regularly face various hazards, figures showed at a conference on occupational disease prevention and control on Wednesday.

Situated in the middle of the prosperous Pearl River Delta, Foshan is a major manufacturing base.

According to Qi Yaofang, director of Foshan bureau of health, workshops at about 30,000 industrial firms have already been checked for toxic or harmful substances. The companies mainly produced ceramics, shoes, toys, leather and jewelry products, with officials on the lookout for substances that may lead to staff developing pneumoconiosis, solvent toxicosis and silicosis.

Qi said the situation would turn "grim" in Foshan in the coming years and predicted that levels of occupational disease would reach their peak in the country over the next decade.

Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, has one of the highest rates of occupational disease, with an average of 200 deaths a year. Surveys showed that around 280,000 employees have at one time come into contact with poisonous dust and another 470,000 with harmful chemical products.

"The city has had 31 occupational poisonous cases, with 86 workers affected, in the past six years," Qi said.

The city has penalized 1,163 firms who were forced to halt production while safety work was carried out.

Zhi Xiuzhen, a worker from a local textile company, said the environment of her workshop was poor.

"I often smell something terrible while I am at work," she said yesterday.

Zhi is expecting the government and company bosses to take effective measures to further improve the working environment.

To tackle occupational diseases in Foshan, deputy mayor Mai Jiehua has promised to draw up more rules to help standardize conditions. Those firms that fail to meet standards will be severely punished and may even have their operating licenses revoked.

Meanwhile, the city's major polluting sectors have been urged to take steps to guarantee employees' health in the coming years. Mai said the city government is doing all it can to prevent and control occupational disease.

China implemented an occupational disease prevention law back in May 2002.

Editor: Yan
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