Saturday, November 16, 2013

Contaminated Tannery Sites on U.S. Soil

Many of the previous posts have shown the impacts that leather-tanning is having on humans and the environment in various developing countries.  It's important to be aware and know, however, that stories regarding the hazards of tanneries also take place right here in the United States. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that leukemia incidence among residents near a Kentucky tannery were five times the national average [1].  And in Johnstown, New York, the former Demis Leather tannery poses a threat to the public health and welfare.  Despite the fact that the tannery is no longer operable, Environmental Protection Agency officials report that hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants are still present at the site and that humans can potentially be exposed via inhalation, ingestion, and/or direct human contact.  These contaminants, labeled “typical leather industry chemicals,” even pose a threat of fire or explosion [2] 
It's no surprise that the production of leather in America has greatly diminished due to an increase in environmental regulations.  Most leather-tanning is outsourced to countries overseas where regulations are minimal or nonexistent.

The Environmental Protection Agency says the former Demis Tannery of Johnstown, New York is contaminated.

Here is a great website that is home to the Investigation of Historical Tannery Operations.  This report presents the findings of an investigation into what it currently happening on previous tannery locations in the Wilmington, Delaware area.  Current land use, presence of children, and exposed surface soil is all included in the report.  Historical maps, documents, and information from residents led to the identification of 128 different tanneries on 53 separate sites.  

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