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Occupational safety and health programmes are economically beneficial
China, with a population of 1.2 billion, is the most populous country. Approximately 700 million are in the active labour force, of which a large proportion is engaged in construction, mining, and other occupations with potential exposure to silica. The number of workers exposed to silica containing dusts may be as high as 12 million. Pneumoconiosis has long been the most serious and yet preventable occupational disease in China. New cases are estimated at 7500 to 10 000 annually, representing more than 70% of the total reported cases of occupational diseases in recent years.1–3 The cumulative number of confirmed pneumoconiosis cases recorded in China between 1949 and 2001 reached 569 129. The majority of the cases occurred in the mining industries, particularly in coalmines, resulting in anthracosilicosis, which accounted for about 40% of the disease.1 Among them, more than 25% had died. In addition to confirmed cases, a 1986 nationwide survey found that an even greater number of exposed workers (around 600 000) were classified as suspected cases.1–3
ECONOMIC BURDEN ANALYSIS
Pneumoconiosis is a progressive and irreversible fibrogenic lung disease that results in not only human suffering but also unaffordable economic burdens. In this paper, we estimate the economic burden of pneumoconiosis in China. The methodologies of estimating economic burdens of occupational diseases vary from disease to disease and from investigation to investigation, dictated primarily by the data available.4–8 We use the traditional human capital approach, which divides costs into direct and indirect categories. In our analysis, direct costs include medical expenses, work absence losses, and management costs, whereas indirect costs include production and profit/tax losses due to work absences. The data in our analysis are derived from two previous investigations in China.9,10
The first investigation …