Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Tannery Pollution Threatens Health of Half-Million Bangladesh Residents

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Tannery Pollution Threatens Health of Half-Million Bangladesh Residents

Article excerpt

About half a million residents of the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, are at risk of serious illness due to chemical pollution from tanneries near their homes, according to a report released last year by the Bangladesh Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD). The report says large numbers of the 8000-12 000 workers at the tanneries suffer from gastrointestinal, dermatological and other diseases that could be related to the pollution and that 90% of them die before the age of 50 vs less than 60% for the country as a whole. About a quarter of these workers are under 11 years of age.

The affected area is Hazaribagh, a community in the south-east corner of Dhaka, where 240 tanneries are located on 25 hectares of land, the report notes. Most of the tanneries are 30-35 years old and use mineral tanning processes that discharge about 6000 cubic metres of liquid effluent and 10 tons of solid waste every day, according to figures from the Bangladesh government and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Chromium, the SEHD report says, is one of the most harmful chemicals found in the tannery waste because of its carcinogenic potential. Acidic effluents, it adds, can cause severe respiratory problems. Gaseous emissions from the tanneries contain sulfur dioxide that is converted into sulfuric acid on contact with moisture and can damage lungs. "You only have to see the corrosion of iron that has occurred in buildings and sheds in the area, to realize what these people are exposed to," says Han Heijnen, WHO's environmental health adviser in Bangladesh. …

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