From: Pter Bengsten,Danwatch, Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published October 29, 2012 08:16 AM

Toxic chemicals used for leather production poisoning India’s tannery workers

India’s tanning industry has started tackling environmental issues but its progress on worker safety is woeful. As Peter Bengtsen found out, illness and deaths linked to toxic tanning chemicals appear worryingly common. The day began as every other day for 32-year-old tannery worker, Ramu. He woke at five in the morning next to his wife, Tamil Arasi, and four children in the family’s one-room hut in a tiny rural village in southern India. After his usual breakfast of rice and lentils, he left to clean waste tanks at some of the hundreds of tanneries in Vaniyambadi. He never returned home.

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Wife Tamil Arasi never forgets the Friday a year and a half ago, when her life fell apart. ’I was at work in the shoe factory that day when I got the call. It was terrible. They told me about his accident, his death,’ she remembers, tears trickling down her cheek. 57-year-old Subraminayan, a colleague of Ramu in the Jillani Tannery, saw it happen:  "We removed sludge from an underground waste tank. Each of us took turns going down in the tank with a bucket. When Sooriyamoorthy (a colleague) did not come up, Senrayan went down to see what had happened. When he did not come up either, Ramu went down there. And then two more. All died," he says. Subraminayan himself was lucky to get out of the tank but lost his eyesight temporarily afterwards.

Article continues at Toxic Chemicals.

Tannery image via Wikipedia.

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