Bangladesh (Mirzapur):
Assessment – ULAB Factory

the details…
Key pollutant
Lead
Source
Informal ULAB recycling
Population affected
1000
Industry
ULAB
Date started
Nov. 2018
Date completed
Nov. 2019
Funders
USAID
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A Preliminary Site Assessment (PSA) was completed at this former ULAB (used lead-acid battery) breaking and smelting factory located in the rural area of Rajabari Nischintopur at Gorai Union of Mirzapur Upazila, Tangail, approximately 60 km northeast of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The plant operated for more than three and a half years, before it was abandoned in February 2019.

Investigations at the site led by local Pure Earth staff indicate that the operators smelted lead, primarily at night, and recycled the battery casings, leaving behind both lead-contaminated soils and lead-laden plastic waste. The area is surrounded by residential and agricultural land. There is a residential area called “Gusso Gram” located just beside the factory. There are also local shops, schools, and mosques in the area. The area houses approximately 600 people, with another 450 working and visiting the area.

The concentration of lead in soil in residential areas was found to be more than 25 times the level recommended by the US EPA. The number of children living near the site is a concern, as they are particularly at risk due to hand-to-mouth activity. The area is unsecured and children and livestock can wander onto the site.

The World Bank estimates that more than 1,100 informal ULAB recycling sites are to be found across the country, leading to nearly one million persons to be at risk. This type of recycling has the potential to create highly localized contaminated sites. Pure Earth, has worked on this issue in Bangladesh since 2011, has identified and conducted risk assessments at lead-contaminated sites across the country.

This ULAB site was discovered as part of a regional investigation through Pure Earth’s Toxic Site Identification Program (TSIP), which has identified more than 175 highly lead-contaminated sites across the country, the majority of which are from unsafe, informal ULAB recycling.

Pure Earth has secured a grant from the Tauw Foundation to carry out risk reduction activities at this site or an appropriate alternative.