Menace at work

Workplaces are great. They give you money, satisfaction and a sense of belongingness. But some of them in China are giving their workers considerable nightmares. About 230,000 workers, mostly women, employed in 74 shoe factories in the city of Putian in Fijian province are exposed to benzene and toluene on a daily basis. The factories discharge almost 2,500 tonnes of benzene annually. The health hazards are too big to be ignored. At least 20 women are under treatment for leukaemia, one of them died of blood cancer and several pregnant women in the factories got ill and had to get an abortion. Most of these factories are joint ventures in which women employees have to work 12 hours a day without incentives or holidays.