China recorded 14,296 cases of occupational diseases last year, including 10,963 cases of pneumoconiosis, a chronic disease of the lungs resulting from long-term inhalation of dust, according to the Ministry of Health.
Pneumoconiosis, a disease primarily affecting miners, sandblasters and metal grinders, accounted for 76.69 percent of the newly emerged cases, said Chen Rui, an official with the ministry's Department of Health Supervision, at a latest meeting.
"China is facing a severe challenge by occupational diseases," he said.
The country has seen a high incidence of occupational diseases mainly caused by poor working facilities and unsafe production especially in some medium and small-sized companies, he said.
Last year, the government checked about 121,779 mining companies, pharmaceutical and pesticide manufacturers, nuclear infrastructure and radioactivity treatment institutions.
It penalized 21,264 companies and institutions and banned another 73 from production. It was ruled that their production may cause occupational diseases or generate radioactive pollution, according to Chen.
Even though China published an occupational diseases prevention law in 2002, many firms, which are often located in small towns, are still turning a blind eye to the health and safety of their workers.
"The ministry has put the prevention and control of occupational diseases top on their agenda for years," he said.
In recent years, China issued a set of regulations to safeguard the health of employees exposed to radioactivity. It also made and revised 667 occupational disease regulations and enhanced supervision and risk evaluation, according to the official.
He revealed the ministry was drawing up an eight-year national plan on occupational disease prevention and treatment to establish a long-term mechanism.
(Xinhua News Agency May 2, 2008)