Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Recycling in Iraq

Today I went out to a metal recycling place here in Sulaimani with a friend ... I wish I had gotten pictures but I forgot my camera. Amazing place. Occupational and environmental health nightmare. It is a place where they melt down scrap metals into bars for recycling. They get alot of stuff from pickers at the local garbage dump and from Baghdad (apparently they are one of the closest recycling places as all the ones down there have shut down).

Apparently if you are picking up aluminum cans you can get 750 Iraqi dinar per kilo (.64 USD). And the city council rents out the privilege (they get a cut of your earnings).

Anyway this place dealt particularly with aluminum and brass but other stuff as well. I even saw pieces of exploded bombs (those are from Baghdad apparently). Lots of it contaminated with other stuff too (paints, oils, etc.). I saw that they had a pile of old radiators ready to go into the aluminum furnace. Black smoke was billowing out of the place, which was generally open to the air, particularly from the aluminum area and the most people had on were dust masks... sometimes not even that.

I spoke to the owner (through my Kurdish friend) ... of course he says, no, they have no health problems ... (living in denial) ... he pointed to one guy working without even a dust mask in the aluminum smelter with thick, black smoke all around him ... "He's been doing this for years and no problem." Then he said that, on the advice of some doctor, they drink milk with lemon to protect themselves from the smoke.

But the owner was a nice guy and pretty open .... and I thought I'd see if I could get some information for him on health effects, prevention, etc...


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