Bangladesh (Kathgora): Cleanup – Abandoned ULAB sites
dermal exposure from smelting
inhalation of smelting fumes
Geology Department of the Dhaka University; Department of Environment, Ministry of Environment and Forests,International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B)
In the small town of Kathgora, north or Dhaka, Bangladesh, contamination caused by two abandoned, informal used lead-acid battery recycling operations threatened the health of local children. Contaminated soils in public areas used by children had lead concentrations exceeding 100,000 parts per million. Contaminated battery waste was left in large piles, and children played directly on these waste piles.
In November of 2017, the project partners initiated risk-reduction activities in Kathgora, which included: 1) an assessment of contaminated outdoor areas; 2) an analysis of levels of lead in children’s blood; 3) a community education program about lead poisoning risks, measures to protect children, and project goals and activities; 4) a soil excavation and capping program to prevent exposures from lead-contaminated soil and dust in outdoor areas; and 5) a home cleaning program to remove lead dust from indoor spaces.
Through these activities, the risk of exposure to hazardous levels of lead was drastically reduced for 300 residents, including 90 children. Follow-up blood testing confirmed children’s lead levels fall 42% following the cleanup.
Before the cleanup, tests of 75 children under the age of seven revealed that all had elevated lead levels ranging from 8 μg/dL to as high as 47 μg/dL. The average blood lead level was 21.3 ug/dL. (While there is no safe level of lead, 5 µg/dl is the level which calls for action in the U.S.) Just nine months after our cleanup, children’s average blood lead levels in Kathgora dropped on average by 4.3 ug/dL.
The third and final round of followup testing and results revealed that a year and a half after the cleanup project, blood lead levels had dropped by an average of 9.1 ug/dL– a 42% reduction on average among children tested all three times.
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