Sandblasting jeans can cause health risks for workers

Sandblasting jeans can cause health risks for workers

Denim workers in Turkey are campaigning for compensation and access to medical treatment after contracting silicosis, a potentially fatal lung disease, in sandblasting sweatshops.

Workers staged a three-day demonstration in Ankara last week as part of an ongoing battle to get the government to provide them with health care and social security and pension payments.

Even though the process of sandblasting was banned in Turkey last March, an estimated ten thousand workers in the country are believed to have been exposed to risk in unsafe factories.

The process involves blasting fabric with sand in order to give it a worn look, but can lead to workers inhaling dust and thus developing silicosis.

The most fatal and irreversible form of silicosis can occur after only a few months of exposure.

In the European Union this type of production has been banned for more than 40 years because of its danger to health.

According to the Solidarity Committee of Sandblasting Laborers, around 600 workers have so far been diagnosed with silicosis.

But the number of people affected by the disease is likely to be far higher, it says.

Part of the problem is that many of the affected workers were employed illegally, which means they have no proof of employment to get social security help or compensation.

Many others were migrants from nearby countries like Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia and Romania may have contracted silicosis from sandblasting denim in factories that lacked basic protective measures.

The Solidarity Committee believes the government's offer to provide free medical treatment for silicosis does not go far enough, and that disability and pension payments are needed after workers have been diagnosed.

It also wants stricter government checks and is calling on the Ministry of Health to launch a campaign in Turkey making workers aware of the fact that they are at risk of developing silicosis and encouraging them to be tested immediately.