Raise Safety Standards for India’s Tanning Industry

Target: The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Goal: Make and enforce regulations that would protect the health of India’s workers in the tanning industry

The various chemicals used in tanning, such as chrome, acids, ammonium salts, and natrium, reportedly make it one of the most toxic industries in the world. More than 60,000 tons of chrome salts alone are used every year in India’s many tanneries even though they are a well-known cause of cancer. Despite the industry’s size and popularity, it has an extreme lack of enforced safety regulations, mostly coming from a lack of protective gear. Doctors near one of India’s main tanning centers report between six and eight tannery-working patients every week, with sicknesses that come from their contact with these toxic materials including skin diseases, allergies, bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia.

These are only among some of the minor issues, as the irresponsible lack of adequate gear such as plastic gloves, boots, and protective glasses can have tragic results. Many workers spend hours on end without this equipment, handling chemical solutions, standing in sulphuric acid and waste water, dipping hands into chrome salts and toxic water to stir them, and inhaling chrome dust. Some workers have lost their vision working with the chemicals, and in one case five workers died cleaning a waste tank, suffocated by the toxic gas. This caused 200 workers to protest, followed half a year later by a 2,500 worker protest in another city as they demanded changes that would prevent more industry deaths. Despite these efforts, conditions have remained extremely poor and seen little change. Union representatives state that workers are often hired on temporary contracts so that they can go uncompensated and even fired once sicknesses occur.

The tanning industry will continue to make a large profit, and working will go uninterrupted. As such, it is extremely necessary that safety gear and health become a top priority for the health of its workers. Those in a position to make regulations will need to make thorough changes that will not only ensure that it becomes strict law for workers to be protected, but to make sure that enforcement is overseen.


Dear Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,

India’s tanning industry is both widespread and successful. However, its success comes at the cost of the similarly widespread instances of sickness and death that plague its workers as a result. The extremely dangerous conditions which the industry’s laborers are forced through on a daily basis are a colossal safety hazard and a disgrace. Approximately 60,000 tons of chrome salts, cancer causing agents, are used every year alone. Combined with the various other acids and chemicals involved in the process, the severe lack of adequate safety gear is cause for serious alarm.

The consequences of this under-protection for workers range from skin diseases and asthma to blindness and even death. The problem is two-fold, as the absence of proper gear puts workers health at risk, while poor contracting makes it so that the industry heads can wash their hands of any responsibility. Please, take the steps necessary to see that the deaths already caused are not in vain. Appropriate measures must be taken to ensure that enforcement of safety regulations is certain and that the industry cannot continue to profit at the hands of suffering workers.


[Your Name Here]

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One Comment

  1. Kathy Parsosn says:

    I understand the tanning industry is served by an untouchable caste, who are rarely considered.

    I hope this petition brings the plight of the untouchable caste to light.

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