Toxic poultry feed poses health risk
The use of tannery waste in poultry and fish feed poses serious health risk for consumers as the hazardous waste has the possibility of directly entering the food chain.
Experts say consumption of tannery waste through fish and poultry might cause liver and kidney diseases, even cancer.
An inquiry by The Daily Star found around 100 small traders in and around Hazaribagh who use raw tannery waste as ingredients and supply those to some 20 feed factories across the country.
The practice of using tannery waste for fish and poultry feed started around 10 years ago, as the price of imported protein for feed has gone up over the years.
Studies suggest that tannery waste contains a huge amount of chromium, which, if used in poultry or fish feed, enters the food chain. People eating such fish, chicken or eggs may be subjected to cancer or liver and kidney-related diseases.
A study in 2007 by Dhaka University and Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) found higher rate of chromium in eggs and poultry meat than the tolerable level.
The samples were collected from Dhaka, Narsingdi, Kishoreganj, Mymensingh, Tangail, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Munshiganj.
Under the study, scientists fed 21 one-day-old chicks the waste-based feed for 42 days and found presence of chromium above the permissible level in their meat, he said.
Prof Abu Zafar Mahmud of Department of Chemistry, Dhaka University, said if chromium and lead remain in the chicken and fish feed, it can be transferred to people consuming these.
"This is very dangerous," he commented.
Dr Habibullah Talukder, head of the cancer epidemiology department at the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH), said the number of cancer patients is rising due to many factors including smoking.
According to NICRH, in 2005, the recorded number of cancer patients treated in the hospital was 5,411, which rose to 6,492 in 2006, 6,926 in 2007 and 7,518 in 2008.
"Use of tannery waste in poultry and fish feed might cause cancer," Dr Talukder told The Daily Star.
Dr Formuzul Haque, former director of BCSIR, said heavy metals like chromium and lead may cause dangerous diseases like cancer and liver cirrhosis and damage the kidneys.
Such heavy chromium is very much likely to be present in poultry and fish feed manufactured by the Hazaribagh-based factories, as they make meat bone, a protein-rich feed, using tannery waste that comes from tanning of skin-cut.
BCSIR Principal Scientific Officer Shafiqul Islam said around 176 tonnes of solid waste is produced every day at 270 tanneries in the country, 90 percent of which are located in Hazaribagh.
Meat-bone contains 2.5 percent chromium, which is only 0.4 percent in imported protein, he said, adding that around 30 types of chemicals like acid, chromium salt and sodium chloride are used in tanning.
USE OF TANNERY WASTE
Previously, tannery owners had to spend around Tk 1,000 each time they cleaned the waste but now, they are earning a fortune selling it, said Naser Ahmed, supervisor of Lexco Ltd, a big tannery factory in Hazaribagh.
He said every day they sell one to five metric tonnes of tannery waste to traders.
Speaking anonymously, an owner of a Hazaribagh feed factory said they pay Tk 5 to 15 lakh in advance to collect skin-cut waste per annum.
He said they boil the waste in big containers and dry it in the sun for five days. "We sell the dried products to middlemen."
"We are capable of supplying up to five maunds of raw products every day to the middlemen, who grind those and sell it to fish and poultry feed factories," he added.
An employee of a grinding mill in Hazaribagh said there are around 10 grinding mills in that area.
Mujibar, a middleman, said feed factories and retailers across the country buy around five metric tonnes of meat bone from him every day.
Abdul Mannan, an employee of a factory in Gajmahal Road in Hazaribagh, said traders used to import a kilogram of meat bone at Tk 10 five years ago, which is now Tk 35 a kg.
On the other hand, meat bone made of tannery waste only cost Tk 20 to 22 per kg, he said, adding that one can manufacture one kg of feed by using half the amount of meat bone compared to the imported protein.
The feed factories prefer tannery waste-turned meat bone to imported protein, he said.
"We can make one kg poultry feed using 60 percent meat bone and 40 percent other ingredients like soya oil cake, ground rice and dry fish. However, for fish feed, we use 40 percent meat bone and 60 percent other materials," Mannan said.
IMPACTS ON ENVIRONMENT
Use of tannery waste is severely polluting the environment in Hazaribagh area as the small traders burn it while boiling skin-cut waste.
Plastic items, like sandals, used for fire and burning of tannery waste make huge black smoke putting public health in danger, said Abu Naser Khan, chairman of Save the Environment Movement.
Although living in one of the green parts of the capital, the locals of Hazaribagh cannot breathe fresh air because of the smoke and are suffering from different diseases like asthma, said Saifur Rahman of Nawabpur lane in the area.
"My niece has been suffering from asthma for the last two years while my nephew for one year," he added.
Moshiur Rahman, adviser of Poultry Feed Industries Association, said big and medium factories don't use tannery waste as they try to maintain quality to sustain in the competitive market.
There are around 70 big and medium and 300 small feed factories in the country, he said.
Director General of Department of Livestock Sunil Chandra Gain said he does not know anything about the use of tannery waste for preparing poultry feed.
Dr Bidhan Chandra Das, assistant director (health) of the department, said there is a law formulated on January 28 this year on fish and livestock feed keeping the provision of up to one year's imprisonment and a fine up to Tk 50,000 against adulteration of the feed products.
He said a process to prepare two guidelines for manufacturing fish, poultry and livestock feed products is on and it will be completed soon.
"After the approval of the guidelines, we will be able to take action against any adulteration of poultry feed," he said.
Department of Environment Director (Monitoring and Enforcement) in Dhaka Munir Chowdhury said, "We will take action if we find evidence of use of tannery waste in poultry and fish feed."