Report: AGTA Silicosis Abatement Project

We are beginning to wrap up our project work in Jaipur on the AGTA Silicosis Abatement Project and I wanted to give the Board an overview of the work we accomplished here. I arrived in Jaipur and was met by Pramod’s nephew Chitrang Agrawal and we transported our equipment to the hotel Saturday evening. Day of rest on Sunday and the remainder of the team from World Health Without Boarders and the University of Queensland arrived.

Monday morning the team met with me and Pramod at the hotel and we blocked out our plans for visits. Our first stop was at Pramod’s factory, in the heart of Johari Bazar, the center of the fabled Pink City.

From left to right are Carmel Bowfinger, U of Q, Paul Bozek, WHWB, Linda Lawson U of Q, Pramod, your’s truly, Chitrang (Chikki) Agrawal (Pramod’s nephew), and Pradeep Agrawal (Pramod’s brother). I need to begin by saying that Pramod and his family did an incredible job of hosting us and making all the arrangements for our meetings. Pramod and Chikki had a van and driver to haul us all over town making sure we weren’t offending anyone with our behavior and the like. Pramod opened all the doors for us, making dozens of phone calls and arranging for visits that we never would have been able to have if not for his name and stature. He fed us like he was a surrogate mother and made sure (thanks Pramod) that we didn’t eat what we shouldn’t eat. The success of this project owes a tremendous thanks to Pramod for all his efforts.

Most of the first day was spent in Pramod’s factory where the team calibrated equipment and got an top to bottom introduction to the process that gems go through in a cutting factory from cobbing the rough to remove flaws, preforming, dopping, polishing and finishing the gem. One of the most educational days I have had in my (redacted) years in the business.

The time we spent in Pramod’s factory gave us an opportunity to prepare for our visits to other cutting factories. The WHWB and U of Q people got a sense of where and how to set up measuring equipment and begin to establish base lines for air measurement and a comparison of results received by each piece of equipment. At that point we were joined by our locally engaged employee Sid, a grad student from Gujarat who will be working for the project on an ongoing basis for the next few months.

That afternoon, Pramod introduced us to a colleague just down the backstreet who was cutting a production of blue chalcedony (aquaprase(sic)) from Africa. We noticed in this room that the cutters were wearing masks, but they were simple masks typically used to prevent sneezes and coughs from spraying (below on left). It was here that we distributed a couple of our N100 masks for the cutters to use and the reception was incredible. We anticipated that the cutters would resist wearing the masks because of comfort but they genuinely liked the comfort of the N100’s (below on right).

On Wednesday we visited a shop cutting corundum, both the massive Indian ruby this is cabbed, also some star material, and massive blue sapphire, looked like Madagascar. Notice in the photo below right what looks like a walkie talkie set up on a box. That is our PCE laser particle tester and the tube flowing down on the left of it is another dust collector that is above my pay grade to name. On this day we were joined by Om Malik, another member of the WHWB team.

While the overall feel was one that surly should be full of dust and material of all sorts, Om Malik (seen in purple shirt installing testing equipment above) noted that most of the particulate material was not harmful.  We also attracted a fan club (see below).  Reminds us why we are doing this.

Thursday’s visit was to a home-based cutting inside a home in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood. These cutters were cutting amethyst, onyx, fluorite and phrenite. Again, wet cutting was employed, and conditions seemed not unlike those seen in some of the smaller shops we visited earlier.

Air quality samples will be sent to Canada for analysis and our locally engaged employee will continue to search out shops and factories for testing. We will coordinating with WHWB and U of Q to review results to this point and to strategize educational efforts moving forward and we will keep the Board up to date on this ongoing project.