One of the leading occupational diseases, silicosis continues to cost lives in Turkey as workers in various industries are still being exposed to silica dust.
At the end of December, one more worker died from the disease at age 36. Faysal Demir who was working in illegal sandblasting denim workshop in İstanbul died in the hospital where he was receiving treatment. Demir’s 7 brothers are also diagnosed with silicosis and formerly a brother of him had died from disease as well.
The main reason of silicosis is denim sandblasting method which is used to bleach denim and get a distressed, already-worn look. The effect is generally achieved by blasting them with sand, and this can give workers an incurable lung disease, named silicosis. Silicosis is a form of occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust and is marked by inflammation and scarring in the form of nodular lesions in the upper lobes of the lungs.
Sandblasting denim has been banned in 2009 by Ministry of Health in accordance with the struggle against the silicosis. However, the number of diagnosed patients who are suffering from the disease has not decreased for some reasons, especially for existing illegal workshops and other sectors in which sandblasting is used as a method. Ministry of Health did not ban sandblasting in other areas apart from textile sector.
In Turkey, the first diagnosis of silicosis in denim sandblasting made in 2004. A worker died for the first time from the disease in 2005, who was also the first victim of denim sandblasting in the world. To date, nearly 100 garment workers have died from silicosis in Turkey, and there are more than 2 thousand cases.
Silicosis is an old disease which is encountered in cases of miners, road workers, iron foundry workers and garment workers. In textile sector, workers use sandblasting machines indoor spaces where they are extremely being exposed to silica dust.
Western countries banned sandblasting method, but continue to support it underhand by shifting the work to "developing countries" where legal barriers are seriously flexible and indefinite. Silicosis resulted in 46,000 deaths globally in 2013 down from 55,000 deaths in 1990.