Vice Minister of Health, Jiang Zuojun, said that, according to data collected since the establishment of the occupational diseases report in the 1950s, pneumoconiosis has killed 140,000 laborers on the Chinese mainland. Jiang was speaking at a national TV and telephone conference on the prevention and cure of occupational diseases on March 16.
There are currently 580,000 pneumoconiosis sufferers in the country. Numbers are reportedly growing by 10,000 new cases annually. According to a national yearly report, some 30,000 of these cases were caused by the inhalation of industrial poisons and pesticides during their production, and some 1,500 people died as a result.
Jiang acknowledged that the negative impact of occupational diseases is serious. For example, certain parts of the country have been nicknamed "Pneumoconiosis Village" and "Poison Village". More important, many of the laborers afflicted by the disease can no longer support themselves. Compensation for sufferers is hotly contested and often results in demonstrations, strikes and mass appeals to higher authorities to intervene, affecting social harmony and stability. Therefore, industrial diseases have become a grave social and public health problem.
Jiang said that the Chinese government has taken certain steps to tackle the problem. It has: implemented an Occupational Health Examining System on Constructing Program; rigidly enforced the approval system and supervision of technical service institutes working on occupational health; and standardized the diagnosis and identification of occupational diseases processes to support development in the areas of prevention and cure.
The Ministry of Health has also decided to launch weeklong activities focused on the theme, "Preventing Occupational Diseases, Protecting Laborers' Health", and will provide free consultations to laborers on industrial health and occupational diseases prevention.
(China.org.cn by Li Shen, March 25, 2005)