One-third of shipbreakers in Bangladesh at risk from lung diseases

Bangladesh’s Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) has unveiled a shocking study that claims one third of workers in local shipbreaking yards face a high risk of lung diseases thanks to their exposure to asbestos.

“People with extensive occupational exposure to the mining, manufacturing, handling, or removal of asbestos are at risk of developing asbestosis,” said Dr Murali Dhar, one of the researchers involved in the study. Asbestos can also lead to lung cancer.

“In Bangladesh, shipbreaking workers are at high risk. Symptoms are manifesting in workers who have been working for about 10 years,” he said.

“In the interest of the safety of workers and in order to prevent them from getting lung cancer, shipowners must build up awareness on the issue,” said Dr Faizul Ahsan Shuvro, who helped with the survey that saw more than 100 workers given health checks during July last year.

Asbestos is now banned on ships, but it is still prevalent on ships from the 1980s and 1990s heading to the beaches of Bangladesh for recycling.

The foundation called for local hospitals to have specialised care for asbestosis while lamenting the health conditions provided by the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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