Speakers in an awareness session on Wednesday highlighted the necessity of preventing and removing lead pollution from the country as it poses a potential threat to children and pregnant women.
The awareness session was jointly organised by the international NGO, Pure Earth and the Department of Environmental Science of Khulna University in Mohammadnagar area of Batiaghata Upazila in Khulna.
With the slogan - “Together, we can solve lead pollution”, hundreds of community people, local leaders, government and non-government representatives, police, and media reporters participated in the engagement event held in Khulna.
Speakers at the session said, Bangladesh is the 4th most lead-impacted country in the world, adding that, an estimated 36 million Bangladeshi children, approximately 60 per cent have concentrations of lead in their blood that the World Health Organization (WHO) recognises as causing brain damage and IQ loss.
In 2019, lead exposure resulted in more than 38,000 deaths (3.6 per cent of all deaths) in Bangladesh, they stated, adding that, illegally used lead-acid battery (ULAB) recycling factories are one of the major sources of lead pollution.
Pure Earth Toxic Site Identification Programme has identified more than 300 toxic sites, World Bank estimates more than 1100 ULAB toxic sites in Bangladesh, they added. One such lead-contaminated zone has been identified in Khulna’s Mohammadnagar area where there was an open-air, unsafe, illegal lead-acid battery dismantling factory, they said, adding that, Pure Earth and Khulna University have collaborated to start a clean-up programme in the lead-contaminated area under the ‘Protecting Every Child’s Potential’ project.
Supporting the project’s intervention, the special guest of the event, Md Iqbal Hossain, director of the Department of Environment in Khulna said, “Bangladesh ranks fourth in the world in terms of lead pollution. This is very dangerous for us. We have dismantled many unsafe lead battery factories through mobile courts. The Department of Environment will provide full support to Pure Earth’s lead remediation project in Khulna.”
Dr Mahfuzar Rahman, country director of Pure Earth said, “We want to see Khulna as a healthy city, so it is important to make it lead-free. We want no one to be left behind, not even a child with lead in their blood.”
In the closing speech, the chair of the programme, Dr Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, Professor and Head of Discipline, Department of Environmental Science at Khulna University said, “There is no alternative to raise awareness to prevent lead pollution. We should be aware of ourselves and make others aware. It is very important to make Bangladesh free of lead as it is very harmful to children and pregnant women.”
The awareness session was held in collaboration with the Department of Environment, Khulna of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), and Jalma Union Parishad.
Other special guests of the event were Prof Dr Md Atikul Islam of Khulna University, Dr Md Monzurul Murshid, Director of Khulna District Health Office, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Khulna Civil Surgeon Sujat Ahmed.