The Financial Express – Shipbreaking causing health hazards: NEERI

29 June 2010 - Nagpur: The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has expressed deep concern over health and environmental hazards caused due to ship breaking at Alang in Gujarat and other places in the country.

The premier national agency has said that the ship breaking industry has not only affected the local environment but also the health of workers engaged in the process.

“There are various harmful factors associated with ship breaking such as asbestos, poly chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, chromite, mercury, fumes of welding and cuffing, radiation and off course noise, vibrations and air pollution,” Acting Director, NEERI, Dr Tapan Chakrabarti said.

Other harmful materials include battery, compressed gas cylinders, organic and firefighting liquids. When these chemicals enter the environment, they not only pollute but also cause adverse health impacts, Chakrabarti said.

Some major health fall outs include breathing difficulties, lungs cancer (due to asbestos dust), anemia, nervous system (due to lead), eczema and respiratory diseases (due to chromium),lung and scrotum cancer besides cell damage.

Even burning of solid waste in the open causes may result in dioxins which poses threat to suppression of immune system in pre-natal and post-natal stages in children, he said.

The shipbreaking industry, involving one of the most hazardous occupations, has picked up momentum in recent years in few Asian countries like China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India and Turkey, mainly due to availability of affordable

labour cost.