Note: India's National Policy on Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) at Workplace takes note of " The increasing use of chemicals, exposure to physical, chemical and biological agents with hazard potential unknown to people; the indiscriminate use of agro-chemicals including pesticides, agricultural machineries and equipment; industries with major accident risks; effects of computer controlled technologies and alarming influence of stress at work in many modern jobs pose serious safety, health and environmental risks."
It is sad that Indian Association of Occupational Health (IAOH)’s annual conference silence on the eve of UN's fifth conference of treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which is seized with the question of a nationwide ban on Endosulfan, one of the dangerous insecticides belonging to the class of compounds called organochlorines is deafening.
The silence of IAOH in the face of ban on Endosulfan in more than 80 countries discredits its position. India is the biggest endosulfan supplier in the world. Endosulfan is one of the prime agents of pesticide poisoning in India. It has been established that it is toxic to humans, fish and other aquatic life. Its adverse effects include death, disease and birth defects, among humans and animals. It causes cancer, allergies and hypersensitivity, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive disorders and disruption of the immune system.
Several years ago, National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) had presented a study to the Indian government linking endosulfan to the prevalence of health disorders.
IAOH's silence seem to reveal that it is more concerned about protecting the corporate interest of Endosulfan manufacturers else how could it chose to feign ignorance about the meeting of UN's the Stockholm Convention on POPs that commenced in Geneva from April 25 and conclude on 29th April, 2011.
IAOH's website acknowledges the National SHE policy that seeks to bring the national objectives into focus as a step towards 'improvement in safety, health and environment at workplace with the objective to achieve Improving safety, health and environment at workplace by creation of “green jobs”" but how does maintaining a silence or supporting continued use of Endosulfan consistent with India's SHE policy?
India's National Health Policy, 2002 refers to 'Environmental and Occupational Health' and states "The ambient environmental conditions are a significant determinant of the health risks to which a community is exposed...In this backdrop, the Policy initiatives, and the efficient implementation of the linked programmes in the health sector, would succeed only to the extent that they are complemented by appropriate policies and programmes in the other environment-related sectors..". Clearly, Government of India's Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has to ensure that pesticides like Endosulfan do not expose the community and their environment.
India's National Environment Policy (NEP), 2006 states, "It is increasingly evident that poor environmental quality has adversely affected human health. Environmental factors are estimated as being responsible in some cases for nearly 20 percent of the burden of disease in India". It further notes the principle of "Inter-generational Equity" in order "To ensure judicious use of environmental resources to meet the needs and aspirations of the present and future generations." This policy refers to "some pollution of groundwater occurs due to....use of agricultural chemicals, in particular, pesticides. " If the diagnosis and prescriptions suggested in the NEP do not create a compelling logic to ban Endosulfan pesticide, one would not know here to apply them. Do agencies like IAOH realize it? Can they suggest a better situation where these would apply?.
Occupational Health India (OHI)
When work becomes a pain
Mallita Jacinto, a Santacruz resident, hates the misconception that a teacher’s job is easy. The 28-year-old goes home every day with a severe neck ache, courtesy the time she spends poring over books, and a headache from the stress of handling so many students.
“Six years of teaching and I already see my health deteriorating. It’s only going to get worse,” said the lecturer at Mittal College, Malad. From inhaling chalk dust to standing and talking for hours, she knows life is going to get tougher.
Jacinto’s case is not an isolated one. Occupational health hazards are an increasing concern in a city where people work long hours in high-pressure jobs.
To deal with work-related health problems, doctors who work with the country’s top companies such as Siemens, Reliance, Hindustan Unilever and even government institutions such as Bhabha Atomic Research Centre came together for the Indian Association of Occupational Health’s annual conference on Sunday at Bandra.
According to the doctors, each profession has its own set of health hazards and the root of most of them are high stress levels among employees.
“There are several things employees must keep in mind if they want to live a healthy, balanced life. Simple practices such as finishing work on time and not procrastinating will go a long way in reducing stress. At times, no matter how hard it may be, you should refuse work if you are overburdened,” said Dr S Sivaramakrishnan, lifestyle management consultant at Hinduja Hospital, and retired vice-president, medical and occupational health, Siemens Ltd.
Doctors said there is an increase in cases of repetitive stress syndrome — repeatedly doing tasks that stress your muscles — among the working class. “The number of complaints of muscle ache is on the rise. These days, people opt for laptops over desktops. You tend to lean more when using a laptop. This causes body aches,” said Dr Kishore Madhwani, vice-president of the association.
The problem, said doctors, is more pressing when it comes to small and medium-scale industries. “While big companies try their best to look after the health of their employees, small and medium-sized industries have limited resources. The government needs to step in and provide employees of these industries with subsidised healthcare,” said Dr Ashish Mishra, health director, Dow Chemicals, India and South Asia Pacific.
Priya Prabhakaran, Mumbai, April 26, 2011
© Copyright 2010 Hindustan Times
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