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Cases of Occupational Diseases Nationwide Rise

Health hazards and illnesses associated with poor working conditions are plaguing an increasing number of Chinese workers, as necessary protective measures are often ignored, according to health authorities.

The Ministry of Health received reports of 13,218 cases of occupational diseases nationwide last year, a rise of 13 percent over the figure in 2000, when 2,352 people died, Xinhua News agency reported.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg because the statistical figures are far less than the actual numbers due to incomplete reports, said Su Zhi, a ministry official in charge of law implementation and supervision.

Fewer than 30 percent of workers who are exposed to dusty environment received health checks for pneumoconiosis, according to Su.

Pneumoconiosis is a chronic but deadly lung disease that is caused by inhaling dust or small particles. Together with chemical poisoning and leukemia, it has become one of the leading causes of early loss of working ability in China, which has a working population of 700 million.

Rapid industrialization over the past two decades has produced more than 20 million township businesses, 60 percent of which, however, have minimal industrial safety measures, according to a ministry survey.

Su said the situation should improve after a national law on prevention of occupational illnesses becomes operational in May this year.

Under the new law, workers will be able to seek legal aid if their right to work under protection from a dangerous environment is violated.

(eastday.com April 2, 2002)

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