The White Death by Katz, Elaine
Witwatersrand University Press | 01 January 1994
Paperback | 120 pages
In this highly original work focusing on silicosis or miners' phthisis Elaine Katz deals with the lives of ordinary working people, explores the extent to which the Randlords who owned the mines were responsible for the cavalier manner in which the health of their employees was treated, and builds a chilling picture of the devastation wrought by what has come to be known as 'The White Death'.
Silicosis is an incurable, often fatal occupational disease caused by prolonged exposure to dust containing microscopic silica particles. It can be prevented by effective dust control and, once contracted, the disease can be halted, but not cured, by eliminating the worker's exposure to silica dust.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, in the absence of dust prevention measures, chronic silicosis was taken for granted as one of the occupational hazards of mining. In fact, the huge prevalence of silicosis on the Witwatersrand was caused by the way in which management manipulated the employees in charge of the mining equipment and neglected the conditions under which they were forced to work.