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February 10, 2010

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Black lung disease takes heavy toll on workers

NEARLY 5,000 workers in central China's Hubei Province have died from an occupational lung disease, with more than 21,000 sickened by the ailment, in the past eight years.

The provincial Department of Public Health revealed the figures on Monday while promoting awareness of occupational diseases at Wuchang Railway Station in the capital city of Wuhan - a transport hub for migrant workers, Chutian Metropolis Daily reported yesterday.

The bureau's data indicated 21,760 cases of pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease, were reported in Hubei from 2000 to 2008, of which 4,834 proved fatal.

The number of cases is expected to rise.

Pneumoconiosis is one of the leading occupational diseases resulting from the inhalation of large quantities of dust.

The annual medical cost to treat each pneumoconiosis patient is estimated to be between 40,000 yuan (US$5,860) and 50,000 yuan.

The health department has set up 111 testing centers across the province and reduced check-up fees to 120 yuan, the newspaper said, citing Bai Yibing, a provincial health official.

Meanwhile, more than 100 migrant workers from Hubei's neighboring Hunan Province were promised free checks for pneumoconiosis and further treatment if necessary after working in Shenzhen City of Guangdong Province where they had been hired to operate jack hammers or handle blasting.

They had been refused checks for occupational diseases initially as more than 70 percent of them had not signed contracts with their employers.

However, media reports over the issue raised the concerns of the state health watchdog, which urged the Shenzhen government to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

Some of them covered by medical insurance received compensation of between 30,000 yuan and 280,000 yuan after being diagnosed with pneumoconiosis.

Another 41 received further checks on January 25.

They were sent home on January 28 before the release of the results and were allocated 1,000 yuan each in financial assistance.


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