Nicotine-resistant gloves for tobacco farm workers
AHMEDABAD: Tobacco is harmful not only for its consumers but also for about six million farmers who work in tobacco farms across the countryâ€” the second largest producer in the world.
To find out ways to prevent â€˜green sign symptomsâ€™ from affecting farmers who are exposed to nicotine while working with their bare hands during harvesting, the ministry of health and family welfare had assigned a project to the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH).
The NIOH deputy director in charge of geno toxicity and microbiology, Dr Vasu Gokani, and Dr Jagdish Parikh, deputy director senior grade in charge of occupation and respiratory medicine, worked on the project.
"Workers suffered from severe toxic effects due to their contact with the tobacco plant. The nicotine entered the body through skin contact. They used their bare palms and arms and suffered routinely from symptoms of nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue and giddiness. The nicotine entered their system and medical examination of urine samples showed its presence in the body," said Dr Parikh.
According to Dr Gokani, in western countries workers used gloves made of â€˜Nitrile,â€™ a chemical resistant that could ward off the effect. "But these are expensive and not suitable for the Indian condition. In India, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the three major states where tobacco production is high."
"We decided to interview farmers in Anand with help of the Tribhovandas Foundation and in AP we sought help from the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) to devise an efficient and economical way to ward off the green sign symptoms", she said.
"Workers complained that not only were they affected the symptoms, but also faced the problem of having their arms and palms smeared with tar from the plant sap which needed rigorous washing and caused abrasions and skin peels around the nails. Additionally they complained that the food they ate tasted bitter due to the nicotinelaced hands", says Dr Parikh.
This led the NIOH team decide to opt for gloves that would be worker-friendly. "We first experimented with rubber gloves, but these were rejected by workers as they were not user-friendly.We then tried cotton gloves, cotton and polyester gloves and nylon gloves."