India Leads the Most Death Linked to Pollution

December 23, 2019 in victimorganising

With 2.3 million related deaths, India leads the world with the most deaths linked to pollution, a new report revealed.

The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), a non-profit nature conservation group, found out that 15 percent — or about 8.3 million — premature deaths linked to the environment is caused by pollution.

After India, China comes immediately with 1.8 million deaths. Nigeria, Indonesia and Pakistan come after. The United States is also among the list, at number seven with around 200,000 deaths.

Rachael Kupka, acting Executive Director of GAHP, said that this report is a reminder that pollution is a global crisis, and your geographical location and economic status will not keep you safe from it.

It is noted that the United States is among the countries with the largest gross domestic product per capita. The economy of China and India were getting aggressive recently, too.

Pollution was classified into four: air, water, occupational and lead.

Air pollution refers to air contaminants that exist in both indoor and outdoor. The report said that 40 percent of the pollution-related deaths came from this category, which is led by China, India and Pakistan.

Unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation were under water pollution. Chad, Central African Republic and North Korea were the Top 3. India made it again, at number 10 with 174 deaths per 100,000 people.

The report said that industrial and vehicular pollution in the urban areas in India has increased while the problem for the poor sanitation retained in less developed community, which explains the frequent appearance of the country on the top 10 list.

Carcinogens, second-hand smoke, particulates, gases, and fumes all fall under occupational pollution, while exposure to lead deposit (usually from the by-product of leaded fuel) is lead risk.

Meanwhile, Qatar ranked at the bottom of the list, which means the country did not have much problem on pollution.

The data used by the study were retrieved from the Seattle-based Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation, which was founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Pollution in India

Earlier this year, AirVisual reported that seven out of 10 most polluted cities in the world are all situated in India. The leading is the City of Gurugram in New Delhi, which has an average air quality index of 135.8 in 2018 – about three times the level of what is considered healthy.

Then, in November, the entire New Delhi chokes as the air quality spikes up to 473 — a level considered as hazardous and is almost five times above the healthy range.

Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of New Delhi, compared the condition of the city to a gas chamber, and blamed the states at the outskirts, Punjab and Haryana, for extensive crop burning. The said practice is a method of preparing the field for the next harvest, and has been criminalized since 2015.

The demand for air purifiers spiked up. Students were also seen protesting against the usage of fire crackers on the Hindu tradition Diwali, which coincides in the same month.

The most polluted river in the world also came from India — the Ganges River, which is an important spiritual site for Hindus. Plastic waste and chemicals dumped from the sewage were seen floating in the sacred site.

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43 Dead In Fire At Luggage Manufacturing Factory In Delhi

December 9, 2019 in victimorganising

Forty-three people were killed when a fire broke out at a luggage manufacturing factory in north Delhi. Most of the people who died were laborers who were sleeping at the factory.

The cause of the fire — which was reported at 5:22 AM — is not known, officials said, adding that over 50 people were inside the factory operating from a residential area when the fire broke out. Thirty fire trucks are at the site and have taken the situation under control. The fire is suspected to have started at the workshop of the bag manufacturing factory.

The factory was operation in an area, whose narrow and congested lanes are lined with many small manufacturing and storage units.

Many people trapped inside were rescued and rushed to RML Hospital, LNJP and Hindu Rao Hospital, fire officials said. Thirty-four people were brought dead to LNJP hospital. Doctors at the hospital confirmed smoke inhalation as the primary cause of the death. Some of the bodies were charred, news

The incident is the worst fire tragedy seen by the city since a similar incident in Bawana last year in which 17 labourers were charred to death.

Source : NDTV

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Death and Injury of Workers in Iran in the Shadow of the Lack of Work Safety

September 5, 2019 in victimorganising

There is daily news in Iranian state media about the deaths of workers at their workplace. This includes mine worker deaths, workers falling from heights, deaths of municipal workers in car accidents, elevator installer deaths, workers death in coal mines, worker death because falling from cranes, petrochemical worker deaths, workers deaths due to heat intensity.

Not a day goes by without media outlets reporting news of construction workers dying during work, as about 1000 construction workers die each year.

A medical official in Hamadan province reported a five percent increase in deaths from work-related accidents in this province, saying: “29 people died in accidents in the province in 2017, and 38 died last year” (ISNA News Agency, June 1)

According to official forensic statistics, the number of people killed in workplace accidents during 1988-2017 was 15,997 with the average of 1,600 deaths yearly. (State-run Health News website, 1 January 2018)

That’s not the whole story, of course. About six times more die from occupational diseases.

In recent days, in the wake of lack of workplace safety and security, four workers in Zanjan, Malayer and Tehran have been injured. Three workers were injured and five others were killed. Iran is ranked 102 in the world in terms of occupational safety, which is very low.

The crash of a boom lift truck injured three construction workers in Zanjan. Tabriz Fire Department Communications Director reports that two workers were injured in a shoemaking workshop in Yousefabad, Tabriz. According to Tabriz Municipality Fire and Communications Services, around 13.00, a worker who was working on the sub-level 2 floor fell one stage down due to lack of job security.

Local news sources also reported the death of a mineworker in Taft city in Yazd province. The worker is said to have been working in a rock mine, and died as a result of an accident.

Furthermore, official state television reported, a 20-year-old Afghan worker died by falling from a height, while working on a building construction.

By Jubin Katiraie

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The invisible workplace accident rate

September 5, 2019 in victimorganising

Nurses providing hospital care, delivery people delivering food to homes, domestic workers cleaning hotel rooms, office workers accumulating overtime hours, waiters and waitresses taking on two or three jobs to make minimum wage: no one would consider these to be dangerous occupations. And yet today, more than ever, they have become high-risk jobs.

In 2019, you no longer have to hang from scaffolding to risk your life on the job. Precariousness, stress and overwork can also make you sick, and even kill you, at a much higher rate than accidents.

Of all of the work-related deaths recorded each day (7,500 according to the International Labour Organization, or ILO), less than 14 per cent occur at the workplace. The vast majority (approximately 6,500) were the result of long-term physical (circulatory, respiratory, professional cancer) or mental illness.

We work in safer environments than we did 30 years ago but the physical and emotional health of workers remains fragile. Traditional risks persist – the European Union, for example, has seen a recent uptick in fatal accidents in the construction sector – while at the same time, emerging risks, psychosocial risks and risks associated with the digital economy are increasing. These include stress, fatigue and harassment related to the organisation of work, working hours, demands and uncertainty.

“Psychosocial risks are the great pandemic of this century and they are related to the precarious conditions of the labour market,” warns Ana García de la Torre, secretary of occupational health of Spain’s General Union of Workers (UGT).

The union’s latest prevention campaign focuses precisely on ‘invisible’ threats such as overloading and hyperconnectivity. “They are not new, we’ve been suffering from them for a while, but they have definitely gotten worse.”

Today’s greatest workplace risk isn’t falling or infectious agents, which are more or less under control, but increasing pressure, precarious contracts, and working hours incompatible with life, which, bit by bit, continue to feed the invisible accident rate that does not appear in the news.

Sick with stress

In today’s frenetic and competitive market, stress has become almost as common at the office as the coffee machine. It is the second most common workplace health problem and is responsible for half of all absences.

It is most common in the service and care sectors, jobs with a high percentage of female employees, where relationships with people can be exhausting. “The idea that the customer is always right has been very damaging to the wellbeing of many workers,” says José Antonio Llosa, PhD in Psychology at the University of Gijón. According to Llosa, at the other end of the spectrum, the most affected employees are highly skilled workers who face “serious levels of demand for excellence”.

Work-related stress is primarily the result of overwork and an increase in the use of technology. According to the ILO’s most recent health and safety report, 36 per cent of the world’s employees work too much (more than 48 hours a week), and all of this overtime puts them at risk.

“There is a close correlation between excessive working hours and accidents at work,” the report warns. “Excessive working hours are associated with the chronic effects of fatigue, which can lead to cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, high rates of anxiety, depression and sleeping disorders.”

Ana Isabel Mariño, labour and social security inspector, acknowledges that these psychosocial risks, combined with ergonomic risks related to harmful movements and postures, are “the most serious today”. However, companies still fail to take preventative measures. “There are usually no protocols in place, just as there are no protocols for dealing with harassment and even sexual harassment,” says Mariño.

Measures are lacking for both raising awareness within companies and updating current legislation. According to UGT, “psychosocial risks are still not included in the catalogue of professional illnesses.” For this reason, many companies do not include them in their risk analyses and they are ignored in medical examinations.

Over the last year there have been some minor advances “such as the recognition of occupational burnout,” says Llosa. “However, we have to be careful with labels. It’s not the fault of the worker who doesn’t know how to deal with the stress,” she explains. The problem cannot be remedied with anxiolytics, exercise or meditation but must be dealt with at the source by changing the way that work is organised.

The new working poor at greater risk

Job insecurity, precarious contracts and low wages have created a new category of working poor. Today, in addition to earning low wages, they are also more likely to become sick or injured.

“This flexibility and mobility, this extreme and constant obligation to leave your zone of comfort without any type of security results in extreme physical and emotional exhaustion. Job insecurity is linked to poor mental health outcomes with higher rates of depression, anxiety and despondency. It also impacts the way people organise their lives and frustrates their plans,” says Llosa.

Llosa, who is participating in a research project on precariousness and mental health, also warns of a direct link between job insecurity and drug consumption and between perpetual uncertainty and thoughts of suicide. “Obviously suicidal thoughts do not necessarily equate to attempts, but they are indicative of a very deep malaise.”

At the same time, precariousness has physical consequences. “The number of accidents has increased in absolute terms and in severity since 2013, coinciding with increased labour flexibility,” adds Mariño in reference to the figures for workplace accidents in Spain.

The most vulnerable workers are those employed on a temporary or casual basis, those subcontracted through agencies and the false self-employed. ILO data shows the rate of accidents for these employees to be much higher than for any others.

In addition, they are hired to do the most dangerous work, have less access to training, are more susceptible to harassment and generally have a harder time asserting their rights. They are consistently faced with a choice between health and work, between enduring pain or running the risk of not being called back.

The most striking example is that of workers for digital platforms and in particular delivery workers and messengers who are forced by multinational companies to declare themselves self-employ in order to receive a salary. This is why many of them lose their rights, including risk prevention, in a dangerous occupation.

“We receive photos of accidents every day. We drive for shifts of three, four, five hours at a time, the probability of having an accident is high and the company puts us under constant pressure to arrive on time. In addition, we don’t receive any training in risk prevention,” complains Nuria Soto, spokesperson for the labour union Riders x Derechos, which represents delivery people in Barcelona.

Last May, a courier in Barcelona, 23-year-old Nepalese national Pujan Koirala, lost his life while making a delivery. Koirala did not have a work visa and was working under the account of another rider. According to Soto, such arrangements are commonplace. “There are tons of undocumented migrants renting or borrowing accounts. The company is aware of this but it suits them. These workers are the last to claim any rights.”

According to Riders x Derechos, since Koirala’s death, six other delivery workers have died in Europe and Latin America “and in none of these cases have the companies taken responsibility.” That’s why they are demanding to be recognised as salaried workers (several courts in Spain have already ruled in their favour) so they don’t have to continue risking their lives on a job-to-job basis as part of a working model that belongs to the 19th century rather than the 21st.

System failure

Accidents not only negatively impact workers but also the companies that employ them and society in general. Bad health and safety practices cost around 3.94 per cent of global GDP every year. “That’s why prevention has to be integrated into business operations early on,” says Alejandro Pérez, professor of occupational risks at the ICADE Business School in Madrid.

“I teach my students that they have to assess the risks, inform their workers, provide training and monitor health. Illnesses have to be addressed as soon as they appear, including stress, so that anyone suffering from it can receive the same protection as someone with a twisted ankle. The problem is that we are still more reactive than preventative,” he adds.

The ILO recognises that more effort is required in order to anticipate risks and strengthen international standards. In the coming decades, the world will have to face major challenges when it comes to occupational safety, including an ageing population, technological risks, the toxic potential of nanomaterials, and climate change, as well as fundamental changes to the way that work is organised.

There is no point in designing algorithms to predict accidents when the labour market itself has become the primary risk factor. As Mariño insists: “The key to improving prevention is slowing down processes, better regulating hours, and curbing this insane competition.” Protecting workers is impossible in a market that is unrestrained and insecure by nature.

This article has been translated from Spanish.

Why synthetic chemicals seem more toxic than natural ones

August 18, 2019 in victimorganising

Many people believe that chemicals, particularly the man-made ones, are highly dangerous. After all, more than 80,000 chemicals have been synthesised for commercial use in the United States, and many have been released into the environment without proper safety testing. Should we be afraid of the synthetic chemicals that permeate our world?

While it is not possible to compare the toxicity of all natural and synthetic chemicals, it is worth noting that the five most toxic chemicals on Earth are all naturally found. When it comes to pesticides, some of the newer man-made versions are remarkably safe to humans; and at high doses, these pesticides are as toxic as table salt and aspirin. Rats continually exposed to low doses of these pesticides (ie, doses found in the environment) don’t develop cancer or problems in growth and reproduction. In fact, toxins produced by plants cause cancer at the same rate as synthetic chemicals, and we ingest a lot more of the plant toxins.

I study toxicology: I look at the effects of substances on living organisms. All substances (natural and artificial) are harmful if the exposure is high enough. Even too much water consumed within a very short time can dilute the salts in the blood, and cause brain cells to swell. A number of marathon runners have collapsed and died because of consuming excessive amounts of water with no salt.

Toxicologists believe that nearly every substance is safe in certain amounts. Take the example of botulinum, the most poisonous substance on Earth. Just 50 grammes of the toxin spread evenly worldwide would kill everyone. But, in very minute amounts, it is safely used for cosmetic purposes in Botox. Thus the adage ‘the dose makes the poison’.

Apart from understanding what doses make a substance ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’, toxicologists also love figuring out how a substance causes a harmful effect. How exactly does smoking cause lung cancer? Once we find a mechanism through which chemicals in smoke cause cancer (and we have), we can be more confident about smoking’s role in lung cancer. Merely showing that smokers have a higher rate of cancer isn’t evidence, since it is easy to find two factors whose patterns correlate. Look at the graph below: it shows that higher rates of divorce in Maine correspond to a higher per-capita consumption of margarine:

While we wouldn’t think that this graph proves anything, we are less likely to question correlations that might seem more plausible. For example, the graph below shows that higher exposure to mercury through vaccinations corresponds to higher rates of autism:Though the theory that chemicals in vaccines might result in autism is now thoroughly disproved, similar examples can be found online for other chemicals. Correlations between increased pesticide use and escalating human health problems prevail, even though there is little or no data to establish a causal link between the two.

Nevertheless, one can argue that, though there is no conclusive evidence presently to show that some chemicals cause health problems, it’s better to be safe than sorry and so restrict the chemical before health problems emerge. Yet while this idea is tempting, it ignores a basic truth: risk exists in nearly everything. Walking outside (we could get mugged), travelling in cars and planes (we could crash), eating food (we could ingest plant oestrogens or the organic pesticide copper sulphate) or drinking water (parts of the US and Bangladesh have high levels of naturally occurring fluoride and arsenic, respectively). We therefore need to understand probability: is the chemical exposure high enough for a high probability of adverse effects? We also need to know the risks of using an alternative chemical – or no chemical at all.

Studies have shown that people vary widely at ranking risks. Below is a snapshot of how the general public and experts ranked risk in 1979 (where 1 is the riskiest, and 30 the least risky).

Courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2007. Adapted from Slovic et al, 1979It seems that laypeople rank risks that receive more media attention or have more vivid imageries higher than the more commonplace risks. Today, the public perceives a higher health risk from genetically engineered crops than experts do.So while it is good to strive for the lowest possible risk, it is important to also consider any benefits, and not disallow things merely because of the risk they pose. The following examples explain this reasoning:

  • Wind turbines kill birds and bats, dams kill fish, and the manufacture of solar cells exposes workers to dangerous chemicals. But how do those risks compare with the risks of global warming and respiratory illness through continued use of fossil fuels? Do the benefits of replacing fossil fuels outweigh the risks of developing alternative energy sources?
  • Birth control pills are very effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies and thus lessen our burden on the planet’s resources. But their use leads to increased hormone levels in streams and rivers, and the feminisation of male fish and decreases in fish populations.
  • The insecticide DDT (now banned in most countries worldwide) caused several bird populations to crash. Yet prior to its ban, when safer alternatives did not exist, it saved millions of human lives by preventing diseases such as malaria and typhus.

Regulators partly decide whether to allow a certain chemical into the marketplace by tallying up its costs and benefits. This can seem crude. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) values a human life at nearly $10 million. Thus, if a pesticide has a one in a 100,000 chance of causing a neurodegenerative disorder in people who apply it, and 1 million agricultural workers could be exposed to it, then the benefit of notregistering the pesticide is $100 million (as 10 people will be protected by this decision). Unless the cost of reducing pesticide exposure to the workers exceeds $100 million, it is unlikely to be registered.

The EPA has been analysing the safety of chemical pesticides for many years, and it recently began analysing the safety of the other chemicals it regulates. Nevertheless, there are several uncertainties when it comes to understanding the toxicity and risks of any chemical. Regulators try to deal with it by using margins of safety. This means that if x dose of a chemical is found safe in rats, then only doses that are at least 100- or 1,000-fold lower are considered safe in humans. However, this doesn’t guarantee that we are exposed only to safe levels of chemicals, and toxicologists don’t always look for effects – such as disruption of hormonal functions – that manifest only at low doses. Also, concerns about long-term exposure to a mix of chemicals are valid as this is rarely tested in the lab. (One Danish study found that the average adult’s risk from consuming different pesticides in food is similar to the risk of drinking one glass of wine every three months. However, this is far from a comprehensive analysis.)

Ultimately, though risk and uncertainty exist on all sides, people seem to be averse only to certain kinds of risks. And while we should undoubtedly work to reduce harmful chemical exposure and come up with safer alternatives, we also need to realise that our excessive phobia of chemicals, particularly synthetic ones, can often be unwarranted.

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