Dallas--The American Gem Trade Association has initiated a project to fight the rise of silicosis, a debilitating and often-fatal disease that comes as a result of workers inhaling airborne silica dust.

To begin, AGTA President Jeffrey Bilgore appointed an ad hoc committee, led by Vice President Bruce Bridges, to perform a six-month study to evaluate the best way for the association to address the problem that increasingly is affecting the colored stone sector.

The committee completed the study and presented a pilot project to the board of directors, which voted unanimously to proceed with it on April 29.

“Workplace silicosis is not unique to the jewelry industry,” AGTA CEO Doug Hucker said. “It is prevalent in hard-rock mining, fracking and particularly pernicious within the construction industries. In our industry, it has been a growing problem in gemstone-cutting centers, particularly in countries where there is a lack of reliable power and availability of technology that is effective in reducing workers exposure to airborne silica.”

The International Colored Gemstone Association and the Indian Diamond and Colorstone Association also will be cooperating in the efforts, according to the AGTA.

The U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration advised the organization on the feasibility of the plan as they put it together, and the AGTA also worked with volunteers at a number of nongovernmental organizations to draw on their experience working in artisanal mining communities in Africa, China and India.

Based on feedback they’ve received, officials with the AGTA said they are ready to begin the pilot projects with test facilities in India.
“In our industry, (silicosis) has been a growing problem in gemstone-cutting centers, particularly in countries where there is a lack of reliable power and availability of technology that is effective in reducing workers exposure to airborne silica.”--Doug Hucker, AGTA
A variety of methods of combatting silicosis have been developed, and which method will be used depends on the conditions that exist in each facility. Additional information on these methods was not available by press time.

The AGTA also is working with NGOs to develop educational materials, such as brochures and native language videos, that can be distributed to support the use of the abatement equipment.

Hucker said the AGTA hopes to launch the program early next year.

Anyone who wants to inquire about providing support for the AGTA’s efforts to combat silicosis should contact Hucker at 800-972-1162 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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