Health Related Issues in the Textile Industry

Health Related Issues in the Textile Industry

The process of making fabric and garments from fibre involves a variety of processes, which include spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing, finishing.  There are several safety and health issues associated with the textile industry.  Read more …

The major safety and health issues in the textile industry can be classified as exposure to:

  1. Cotton dust
  2. Chemicals
  3. Noise
  4. Ergonomic issues

Exposure to cotton dust:

The workers engaged in the processing and spinning of cotton are exposed to cotton dust and other particles which lead to a respiratory disorder called Byssinosis, commonly known as brown lung.  The symptoms of this disease include tightening of the chest, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Also there is an increase in the incidence of chronic bronchitis and acute respiratory illness.

Exposure to chemicals:  Especially those engaged in the activities of dyeing, printing and finishing, are exposed to chemicals. These chemicals containing benzidine, optical brighteners, solvents and fixatives, crease-resistance agents release formaldehyde.  Flame retardants have organ phosphorus and organ bromine compounds. Antimicrobial agents which are used in textile operations are also detrimental to health.

Exposure to formaldehyde can cause:

  • Cancer of nose, lung, brain and blood (leukemia), which can be fatal in the long run.
  • Respiratory difficulty and eczema.
  • Contact of the chemicals and dyes with skin can cause contact dermatitis and inhalation can lead to several serious health effects.

Other cancers which are notably high in textile workers are of the:

  • Oral cavity
  • Throat
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Thyroid
  • Testis
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Exposure to noise: High levels of noise from ill maintained machinery in the long run, is known to damage the eardrum and cause hearing loss.

Other problems like fatigue, absenteeism, annoyance, anxiety, reduction in efficiency, changes in pulse rate and blood pressure as well as sleep disorders have also been noted on account of continuous exposure to noise.

Ergonomic issues:  In most developing countries most of these units have a working environment that is unsafe and unhealthy for the workers.

Workers in these units face a number of problems such as:

  • Unsuitable furniture
  • Improper ventilation and lighting
  • Lack of efficient safety measures in case of emergencies
  • Musculoskeletal disorders on account of poor ergonomic conditions

What solutions exist for the problems of these workers?

It is compulsory for employers in the textile industry to protect their workers from over exposure to cotton dust and its detrimental effects.

  • Employers are required to measure the quantity of respirable cotton dust once in 6 months or whenever they notice any increase in the level of dust. (Guidelines are available from the occupational health and safety department of the government)
  • It is the duty of the management to provide respirators to the employees.
  • Regular servicing of machinery to reduce noise levels, providing earplugs.
  • Providing masks and gloves to handle chemicals.
  • Ensure proper lighting and ventilation.
  • Provision of shift system and rotation of duties so that no single worker is exposed to a particular job only.
  • Proper padded stools with backrest and well aligned tables to avoid musculoskeletal strain.
  • Ensure proper fire safety measures – with provision of fire extinguishers, regular fire-drills, availability of first aid kits etc.
  • Regular medical examination for early detection of diseases and provision for treatment and management.