The world grows smaller as more countries begin to interact with one another. One troublesome trend has emerged, though – wealthier nations continue to take advantage of developing nations by using cheap overseas labor to manufacture their goods. Such an imbalance of power often comes at the cost of the safety of the international workers. When employed by irresponsible companies, these individuals can face several hazards, including occupational asbestos exposure.
Recent stories from Asia remind us of the plight of these workers, as well as a consumer’s capacity to bring about positive change.
Bangladesh garment industry serves as poignant example
The most recent incident of injustice against laborers occurred in Bangladesh this past April. During the last week of the month, a multistory building in the suburb of Savar that housed garment industry workers collapsed, killing 1,127 individuals. Government investigations revealed several factors leading to the collapse. The foundation was unfit for construction because it was swampy, building materials were shoddy and operating machinery vibrated at a high rate, as reported by the Associated Press.
Adding insult to injury was the fact that the average factory worker was paid $38 a month by a $20 billion per year industry.
It’s incidents like these that remind us of why workers need someone to speak up for them. Kazan Law helps people who are dealing with mesothelioma and other diseases caused by occupational asbestos exposure. We take unscrupulous parties to court, and we advocate for better workplace safety
Unfortunately, the economic and government systems of certain countries still don’t allow that opportunity.
Occupational Asbestos Exposure: Indian Workers Deal with Sickness
One recent study, published in the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, discussed the interviews that researchers conducted among the former workers of a factory that manufactured asbestos sheets and cement before closing in 1983. Several of these workers had asbestosis or other respiratory problems.
Based on the interviews, the researchers learned that the company didn’t provide adequate protection. To make matters worse, workers weren’t well aware of the risks. This was partly due to the long latency periods of asbestos-induced diseases, coupled with the economic factors that pressured workers to take these jobs in the first place.
The researchers concluded that more programs regulated by independent government bodies are needed to educate workers about their rights and the health hazards of asbestos. Rehabilitation programs that emphasize palliative care are also needed in India.
However, the best solution is an outright ban on the asbestos trade, the researchers said. Such a policy may be a long time coming because of the power of the asbestos lobby. One of the proponents’ arguments to continue the use of the mineral is the idea that if science makes the health risks of occupational asbestos exposure clear, governments should be knowledgeable about how to adequately protect workers. Unfortunately, as has become apparent, the governments of developing nations rarely enforce such policies.
Overall, about 125 million people all over the planet are exposed to asbestos in the workplace. So what can concerned consumers do? After the Bangladesh building collapse, several clothing companies made it a point to stop doing business with irresponsible companies.
Perhaps we can take a lesson from this and apply it to trading partners who don’t protect their workers from occupational asbestos exposure. As a consumer, you have a voice. If any of the companies that you patronize have overseas factories, let them know that you’re concerned about the health and safety of their workers, and that you’ll stop giving them your business if they don’t protect their employees from hazards which include occupational asbestos exposure.