Gemstone Workers in India

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More than 2,000 men, women and children in India have died miserable deaths due to silicosis, while polishing gemstones for export to the U.S. and Europe. Workers are paid just 17 ½ to 33 ½ cents an hour to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, squatting in front of primitive grinding wheels, using their fingers to press agate and other semi-precious stones against the wheels to shape them. In the process they are covered with silica dust. Silicosis is 100 percent preventable. But without proper occupational safeguards, with continued exposure, silicosis becomes 100 percent fatal. It would not cost very much to install proper exhaust ventilation systems combined with a wet grinding methods that would save the lives of the agate workers and their families. It really comes down to whether or not enough of us will raise our voices demanding that the jewelry companies importing agate and other gemstones from India clean up their operations.

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