New Delhi: Silicosis is a major occupational health problem among people engaged in stone work. The lung disease occurs due to exposure to stone dust like silica, among workers who do not use any protective gear. Silica is a tiny crystal found in sand, rock and mineral ores like quartz. Now, researchers from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute (CEERI), Pilani, have developed a stone dust precipitator system that can help stone workers breathe easy.
Researchers have developed two variants of the dust precipitator system – one for single artisan and another that can be used by four persons simultaneously. The precipitator for single artisan collects tiny dust particles with its high suction power. This suction is about 10 times higher than that of the inhaling power of human beings. It separates all the dust particles from the air and finally dissolves them in water.
The sediment of this stone dust is drained through a drain pot from time to time, and the stone dust can then be reused. The system for four workers has some modifications as it has four suction branches around the system chamber. Each branch has an individual control unit.
According to Dr. P.C. Panchariya, researcher from CSIR-CEERI, the precipitator can suck a significant quantum of dust particles and prevents pollution and exposure. “It’s self-filter cleaning technique makes it suitable for non-technical persons also and it is based on power saving technique,” said Mahendra Singh, another member of the research team.
During stone carving, the production of PM 2.5 and PM 10 is very high. PM 2.5 is mainly responsible for silicosis. “When the dust precipitator system is used, all dust particles produced while carving stone are sucked out by the system. Thus, dust particles can not reach the mouths of stone artisans, saving the, from inhaling it,” said Dr Panchariya.
In India, the prevalence of silicosis ranges widely from 3.5% in ordnance factories to 54.6% in the slate-pencil industry. This variation in prevalence is due to the silica concentrations in different work environments, the job demands, and duration of exposure. It is prevalent in Orissa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Pondicherry, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and West Bengal among workers in construction and mining.
Silicosis is an incurable condition with its potential to cause permanent physical disability. As there is no effective specific treatment for silicosis, the only way to protect workers’ health is to control exposure to silica-containing dusts.
“The smart stone dust precipitator system would be a good tool to save people from this disease and will provide better health to the workforce,” said Dr Panchariya.
Jyoti Singh is a contributor at India Science Wire.