Occupational Health News Roundup

Gold mining is in the news this week after a makeshift gold mine in Colombia collapsed and killed 22. The dead were mostly women, many of them single mothers digging for a few grams of gold that would allow them to feed their families. The Guardian’s Rory Carroll explains, “An informal agreement with the site’s owner allowed them to try their luck over the weekends when the company’s earth-movers were inactive.”

In South Africa, The Cape Argus reports, hundreds of laborers mining illegally put themselves at serious risk and also endanger official workers, because their haphazard digging destabilizes existing mine shafts. Meanwhile, according to the International Herald-Tribune, record gold prices are spurring South Africa mining companies to dig deeper than before, and the country’s Chamber of Mines has set up a safety committee to consider the dangers.

In other news:

Living on Earth: The EPA insists that the toxic fumigant methyl iodide (the replacement for methyl bromide, which is being phased out under international treaty) can be used safely, but many scientists and health advocates are concerned. During an interview, EPA’s pesticide program leader Jim Gulliford refused to address specific questions about the health concerns the scientists raised and abruptly ended the interview.

The Gazette (Iowa): Farming remains one of the country’s deadliest occupations.

Salt Lake Tribune: Utah policies that limit and delay lawyers’ payments for representing injured workers, and those hurt on the job have a hard time finding someone to take their cases. (Thanks to Jordan for the link.)

Washington Post: Veteran Troy Turner returned from Iraq with PTSD and was unable to work – and soon his wife, Michelle Turner, had quit her job and taken on the full-time work of trying to get him care and disability payments.

BBC: A study finds that a year after Indian law banned children under 14 from working as domestic servants or in food stalls, millions of them are still doing those jobs.