Leather industry listed in worst toxic pollution report
The NGO 2011 report has listed artisanal gold mining, industrial estates, agricultural production; lead smelting, mining and processing, lead-acid battery recycling, arsenic in ground water, pesticide manufacturing and chemical manufacturing as the worst pollutants in the world.
The report says that they have identified 95 leather tanning sites covering South East Asia, Central and South America and Africa as not having sufficient pollution measures to protect workers or the surrounding population. The full report can be found at http://www.blacksmithinstitute.org.
According to the information collected in the Blacksmith Institute’s inventory of sites, South Asia, and in particular India and Pakistan, has the highest number of tanning industries, with South America also at risk of large populations being exposed to chromium contamination.
Blacksmith Institute, in partnership with the Central Pollution Control Board of Kanpur, India, recently conducted a programme that helped to reduce groundwater contamination caused by over 300 tanneries in the area. Tests conducted after the treatment showed that hexavalent chromium levels had become undetectable in some of the wells. Additionally, a program in collaboration with local officials and NGOs in Gujarat was able to move 60,000 tons of waste sludge from a tannery operation to a secure location.
The remaining soil in the area was treated using vermiculture.
A town in northern India on the banks of the Ganges River has approximately 400 small tannery operations that are contaminating the area with large amounts of hexavalent chromium. Because many of these tanneries are informal, they do not have proper waste treatment facilities, and effluent is openly dumped into the surrounding environment. Contaminated water from the river is used for a variety of purposes, particularly for irrigation. Soil in the area is also very contaminated with hexavalent chromium, which poses a dangerous health risk if dust from dry areas is inhaled. Blacksmith estimates that approximately 60,000 people are at risk of developing health problems from exposure to the toxic pollution. Samples in the area found 6,227.8 parts per million of hexavalent chromium in the soil.