Workers in many leather tanneries in the Hazaribagh neighborhood of Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital, including children as young as 11, become ill because of exposure to hazardous chemicals and are injured in horrific workplace accidents. The tanneries, which export hundreds of millions of dollars in leather for luxury goods throughout the world, spew pollutants into surrounding communities. Human Rights Watch documents an occupational health and safety crisis among tannery workers, both men and women, including skin diseases and respiratory illnesses caused by exposure to tanning chemicals, and limb amputations caused by accidents in dangerous tannery machinery. Residents of Hazaribagh slums complain of illnesses such as fevers, skin diseases, respiratory problems, and diarrhea, caused by the extreme tannery pollution of air, water, and soil. The government has not protected the right to health of the workers and residents, has consistently failed to enforce labor or environmental laws in Hazaribagh, and has ignored High Court orders to clean up these tanneries. Under international law, the government is required to take reasonable steps to protect the right to health of everyone in its territory.
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