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    • OSH Rights: April 2014, No 31

      In this Issue

      • Commemorating 1 Year Anniversary of Rana Plaza Industrial Homicide
      • Government welcomes passage of Air Pollution Control (Amendment) (No. 2) Ordinance 2013 - Ban asbestos in Hong Kong
      • Update from Partners
      • A Fact-Finding Report on the General Strike and Violent Crackdown in Cambodia
      • Pakistan: Nurses Strike for Rights
      • ABAN Visit to Pakistan
      • Ban Asbestos Campaign gets a boost in Pakistan

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    • Poisonous Mine Shut Down in China’s Hunan Province

      Asia’s largest realgar mine has been shut down, leaving behind massive arsenic contamination with ill and dying people in surrounding villages.

      The 1,500 year-old mine, located in Baiyun Township, Shimen County, in China’s Hunan Province, once a source for a Chinese medicinal supplement, has gradually become a toxic wasteland during the past six decades.

      Arsenic contaminated soil and water within 9 square kilometers (5.5 square miles) of the mine has poisoned more than a thousand villagers, according to a report by Legal Weekly, a mainland Chinese media.

      Hu Lizhen, a local villager, said five of her 11 family members have already been diagnosed with arsenic poisoning, but not all of them have been checked yet.

      Another villager said the water is not drinkable, and they have to get water from outside.

      People from surrounding areas won’t buy vegetables from these contaminated villages. So, residents have no choice but to eat their own crops due to financial hardship.

      People who suffer from arsenic poisoning are usually bedridden, unable to straighten their fingers, and their skin is marked with dark bumps. If the arsenic poisoning is not treated early, it develops into skin or lung cancer.

      According to Dr. Zhao Guangming, the vice president of the Huang Plant Hospital, an average of 10 people in the area have died each year from arsenic poisoning, with the highest number being 30. From 1976 to 1998, there were more than 300 deaths, he said.

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    • Reforms slow in Bangladesh’s toxic tanneries

      Dhaka (AFP) – Standing knee deep in toxic chemicals, Mokter Hossain loads animal hides into huge drums filled with still more dangerous liquids at a tannery in the Bangladesh capital.

      Barefoot and sick with fever, Hossain stops every now and then to cough, a legacy of the job that his doctors warn could one day kill him.

      “Some days I am too ill to work,” said Hossain, 25, who has spent years inhaling fumes from the hexavalent chromium and other chemicals used to turn the raw hides into soft leather.

      “I take medicine to control my skin diseases. If I don’t, it gets worse,” Hossain adds, gesturing to his arms and legs which are covered in rashes and black spots.

      Hossain’s tannery is one of 200 in Hazaribagh in Dhaka, where some 25,000 workers toil for as little as $50 a month to produce leather for shoes and other goods for stores in Europe and the United States.

      Ten months ago, Western retailers were forced into action after a garment factory complex collapsed killing 1,135 people, one of a string of tragedies that have shone a global spotlight on that sector’s shocking labour and safety conditions.

      But there are few signs of reform at Bangladesh’s leather industry, where conditions are equally atrocious and business is booming thanks to the West’s growing demand for cheap leather items.

      Top local activist Rizwana Hasan blames a lack of headline grabbing disasters in the industry that could make consumers think twice about where their shoes and bags are made.

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