Workers at stone crushing units are exposed to silicate dust

Sitting on the veranda of the cramped mud hut, Morzina Bibi (55) stared blankly when asked about the recent death of her son Zakir Paik (26) due to silicosis, a respiratory disease resulting from accumulation of silicate dust in the lungs.

“He was the only bread winner of our family of 18 and now we are no better than beggars,” she told The Hindu.

Exposure to dust

Paik, a resident of Goaldaho village in the Minakhan block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal died on July 21. He is the latest among the 21 people who have died due to silicosis over the last four years in Minakhan. All of them worked in stone crushing units located mainly in Bardhaman district where they were subjected to severe exposure to silicate dust.

Even as Paik’s death certificate mentions tuberculosis as the reason for his death, an analysis of the X-ray plate of his lungs by expert on silicosis Kunal Dutta showed that Paik died due to silicosis. Activists and locals alleged that in several such cases State-run hospitals do not mention silicosis in the death certificate but write tuberculosis instead. Read more