Drowning in pollution
It’s afternoon. Some children are playing cricket on the field; suddenly their ball drops down into the nearby cannel. After trying for couple of minutes they pull the ball with some hazardous chemicals incognito as they can see the cannel water is unusual in color. It’s the common scenario of heavily industrialized areas like Savar, Narayangonj, Gazipur near Dhaka city.
Now, the questions rise where do these hazardous chemicals come from in a place where thousands of people dwell in and how those people get exposed to these pernicious chemicals? The source of these noxious chemicals is different industries which are admixed with water and make their way to natural water system through canal. What is more surprising is that most of the industries don’t have the facility for wastewater treatment.
Synthetic fibers, in association of treatment with different chemicals, for example flame retardants which comes from the organophosphate, is very harmful as we know organophosphate causes irreversible inhibition and accumulation of acetyl choline, which associates with contraction effect on respiratory muscle. Chlorinated solvents known to affect central nervous system, liver and kidneys as well as they are also ozone layer depleting agents.
The water from dying industries largely contains some mutagens such as azo dyes those can break down over time and release chemicals known as aromatic amines. Some of these chemicals can cause cancer and hepatotoxicity. Some chemicals have the potential to accumulate in body tissues and biomagnify (increasing in levels through the food chain). The chemicals mentioned below have such properties. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) affect the liver as well as acting as hormone disruptors, altering levels of growth and reproductive hormones.
Chlorobenzenes have been using as solvents and biocides, in the manufacture of dyes and as chemical intermediaries in textile industries commonly affect the liver, thyroid and central nervous system. Pentachlorophenol (PCP) and its derivatives are used as biocides and Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) are used in the textile industry as flame retardants and finishing agents which are highly toxic to aquatic animals and they don’t readily breakdown, as a result they have the high potential to accumulate in biological organisms.
Heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury used in certain dyes and pigments can accumulate in the body over time and are highly toxic, with irreversible effects including damage to the nervous system (lead and mercury) or the kidneys (cadmium). Cadmium is also known to cause cancer. Chromium (VI) itself is a highly toxic agent; even at low concentrations it has detrimental effect on human body. It has been seen that many people are suffering from fatal diseases who live nearby areas due to the mangy environment and the industrial wastes those contain raucous elements.
Apart from human health, the ecosystem is also severely affected; for example, the BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand), COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand), Suspended Solids (SS) and Dissolved Solids (DS) level don’t comply with the standard level for the natural water reserve system. In most of the areas the aquatic animals have long been extinct and in other areas they are on the verge of extinction. Moreover, some of the antimicrobial agents used to prevent the degradation of natural fibers also prevent the eco-friendly microorganisms which are very useful in the decomposition of the waste products. The pollution of rivers near Dhaka has reached in such a condition that water refiner authorities can’t make it properly purified and safe for human use, thus we are taking water which is not properly safe. This turned out in a cycle where this water comes into human contact, got mix with chemicals and others stuffs, again mixes with river.
As development is not possible without industrialization but keeping pace with modernization, we also need to be carefully about the protection of us form hazardous chemical exposure.
There are several activities performed by the Department of Environment for the protection of the environment of Bangladesh. These includes
- Environmental quality monitoring,
- Compliance and enforcement of environmental regulations,
- Survey of Industrial pollution,
- Co-ordination with committees of various ministries/departments / agencies,
- Surface water quality monitoring and
- Air quality monitoring and environmental awareness through public media.
Additionally we can develop new method to estimate chemical exposure and dose, research to provide a better understanding of the biological system, regulate proper hazardous chemical store and disposal in different industries.
Last but not least, all of our concern is important to solve this issue to make our motherland a safe place for our next generation.
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