Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Speaking of international Workers Memorial Day, let's also remember those who need health and safety protections most, and probably enjoy them least. This rather disturbing Guardian article was forwarded by Hazards editor Rory O'Neil.

Hell on earth

This is the most polluted place in Russia - where the snow is black, the air tastes of sulphur and the life expectancy for factory workers is 10 years below the Russian average. But now a local union rep is taking on the might of Russian industry in Sunday's mayoral elections - and promising to clean up the town. Nick Paton Walsh is one of the few foreigners to be allowed in.

Nick Paton Walsh
Friday April 18, 2003
The Guardian

For Volodia Tuitin, snow comes in many colours. It can be black. Sometimes it is a dirty yellow or even pink. Tuitin has spent all his 45 years in they heavily polluted mining town of Norilsk, where he now works in a copper-smelting factory. His life has been dominated by the same skyline - a desolate set of snowdrifts and battered tower blocks - punctured by tall chimney stacks belching out heavy metals and industrial dust. This is the most polluted town in Russia.

Tuitin endures daily work in the electrolysis plant. Here, toxic fumes blind the senses, forcing him and his colleagues to wear respirators. Lists of dead workers adorn the walls of the plant's lobby, usually men "only 50 or 52 years old", Tuitin says. Many of his colleagues hide their illnesses to avoid losing shifts. "If I lose my job, then I won't find another place to work in this town. What will my family eat? We go to work despite knowing conditions are bad. Forced work like this is normally called slavery."
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