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Construction crews say cement from Egypt is inferior, making them sick

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Workers are complaining about cement imported from Egypt. Photo: Sipse

Mérida, Yucatán — Builders say they are being pressured to stop complaining about imported cement that they say is both inferior and toxic.

Contractors began buying imported cement after the cost of domestic cement, which is produced under a near monopoly, rose 12 percent in June 2017. Cement from Egypt costs 125 pesos per sack, nearly half what domestically produced cement costs. It is found mainly in low-income housing.

Related: Cement prices in Yucatán may become more competitive when rival upstart gets in gear

Representing local construction workers, Juan Moo Moo said the import contains chemicals that have caused swelling, abrasions and burns with at least 20 workers.

He also said that the Egyptian variety doesn’t have the longevity of cement made with Mexican material.

“Many houses that are being made with that cement of low quality that will reduce their life in half,” he said.

An estimated 12,000 tons of cement has arrived from the north African country in the first half of the year.

The imported cement is of high quality and keeps construction prices at bay, said Armando Valencia Castillo, the president of the National Chamber of the Development and Promotion of Housing Industry (Canadevi).

He also said that all raw cement, no matter the brand, is inherently toxic and should be handled with gloves.

Moo Moo said that when they raised their voices, it was to defend their fellow alarifes who had been affected in their health by the alleged manipulation of cement of African origin. But that part of their complaint has been withdrawn from health and labor authorities “because we have received threats.”

The workers’ representative insisted that they filed complaints with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security and Health, but did not proceed because the state agency “did not do their job to defend the workers.”

“On the contrary, they called us liars,” he said.

Sources: Sipse, La Tribuna Campeche

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