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Occupational Diseases Rising

Guangdong government will spend 40 million yuan (US$4.83 million) to find and fight increasing work-related disease cases in the province.

Some 150,000 Guangdong residents had pneumoconiosis, a lung disease caused by dust inhalation, a government health meeting was told Tuesday.

Authorities are investigating a precious stone processing enterprise in Foshan where dozens of workers were suspected of having the disease.

The meeting was told four welders in a Jiangmen container manufacturing enterprise also had developed pneumoconiosis, and the company had seven other suspected cases.

Pneumoconiosis is the most common occupational disease in Guangdong, with precious stone processing and container manufacturing workers often suffering from the condition.

Guangdong health authorities only received 800 reports of occupational diseases in the past three years, despite a rising number of occupational disease sufferers.

It was hard for doctors to tell whether a disease was related to one's job, said Huang Hanlin, head of the Guangdong Provincial Occupational Disease Prevention and Treatment Hospital. Therefore, many occupational disease cases were not reported to authorities.

Some occupational disease sufferers could have diseases long before getting any symptoms. Benzene poisoning could cause blood cancer, but the latent period could be as long as 30 years, said Huang, explaining why many occupational disease cases were not reported.

Experts say there would be more work-related disease cases in Guangdong in the next five years, especially because some diseases caught more than a dozen years ago, when Guangdong started full industrialization, have not had time to show symptoms yet.

Precious stone processors and container welders are vulnerable to pneumoconiosis in Guangdong while leather processors can catch blood cancer and aplastic anemia.

Hardware welders could be poisoned by Trichloroethylene, and battery producers are exposed to lead and cadmium.

(Shenzhen Daily April 14, 2005)

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