China’s Silicosis Epidemic Triggers CIBJO Involvement

In the 1700s, the Germans called it “cutters’ disease” because it resulted from breathing the dust in gem-cutting mills. But silicosis didn’t become an epidemic until the development of holding ponds at the wheelhouses in the mid-19th century, which allowed for longer working hours. The number of German cutters stricken with the condition, as well as tuberculosis, nearly doubled, and life expectancies were half the national average. The government finally imposed a health regulation on the gem-cutting industry, the first ever. Now it’s China’s turn. The China Labour Bulletin, a nongovernmental organization that monitors labor conditions in China, published a report in August 2005 describing a silicosis epidemic among Guangdong jewelry workers. Titled “Deadly Dust,” the report called China’s occupational-illness prevention and compensation system “defective.” Whe

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