Bangladesh's Leather Pollutes Environment, Harms Workers & Government Looks Away (Video)

If you buy leather produced in Bangladesh, odds are it came from the these conditions.

A new report from Human Rights Watch exposes the horrific environmental, health, and social conditions under which 90% of Bangladesh's leather is produced, in the Hazaribagh area of the nation's capital Dhaka.

You can watch the short video above to get the gist of the situation—which involves child labor, the government admitting it doesn't enforce the laws that are on the books, and pretty horribly working conditions all around—but here are some of the deeper details of the report:

Leather produced in Harazibagh goes to 70 countries, but most of it ends up in China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, Spain and the US. For the past ten years Bangladesh's leather industry has grown by $41 million per year, with $663 million worth of leather produced in 2011-2012.

As far as the environmental impact goes, the report summary says:

The wastewater that pours off tannery floors and into Hazaribagh’s open gutters and eventually Dhaka’s main river contains, among other substances, animal flesh, sulfuric acid, chromium, and lead. The government estimates that about 21,000 cubic meters of untreated effluent is released each day in Hazaribagh. Government officials and tannery industry representatives told Human Rights Watch that no Hazaribagh tannery has an effluent treatment plant to treat its waste, which can have many thousands of times the legally permitted concentrations of pollutants.

And the child labor/poor working conditions aspect:

Human Rights Watch interviewed children, some as young as 11, working in tanneries. They were engaged in hazardous work, such as soaking hides in chemicals, cutting tanned hides with razorblades, and operating dangerous tanning machinery. Women and girls said that they are paid comparatively less than men and that, in addition to their own work, they must also perform tasks normally performed by men.

Read the full report: Toxic Tanneries: The Health Repercussions of Bangladesh's Hazaribagh Leather

And, of course, all of this is after the fact that the animals raised for leather probably had horrendous living conditions as well...

Tags: Bangladesh | Environmental Justice | Green Fashion | Pollution | Poverty

Best of TreeHugger