Hair burning and liming in tanneries is a source of pollution by arsenic, lead, zinc, manganese and iron

Md Abul Hashem, Md Shahruk Nur-A-Tomal, Nil Ratan Mondal, Md Aminur Rahman

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Heavy metals in the environment may be toxic for human and animals. Tanneries are a source of pollution by heavy metals. There is little information on heavy metals pollution in tanneries, especially on metals produced by the process of hair burning and liming. Liming is the first stage of chemical treatment where animal hair or wool is removed with sodium sulphide and calcium oxide. Here we studied cow, goat, buffalo and sheep hair, conventional liming agents and liming wastewaters from several sources. Samples were acid-digested and aliquots were analysed by atomic absorption spectroscopy following APHA standard method to measure concentrations of arsenic, lead, cadmium, zinc, manganese and iron. Results show that the range of metal contents in hair or wool and liming agents are 1.3–8.2 mg/kg for arsenic, 0.02–21.8 mg/kg for lead, 17.7–121.0 mg/kg for manganese, 7.3–141.1 mg/kg for zinc and 119.6–10613.8 mg/kg for iron. Liming wastewaters contain 1.9–5.6 µg/L arsenic, 0.03–6.05 µg/L lead, 38.6–139.0 µg/L manganese, 144.0–171.5 µg/L zinc and 399.5–1069.0 µg/L iron. Cadmium was below detection limits. This is the first investigation that reveals that hair burning liming operation is a potential source of heavy metals in the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-506
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Environment
  • Hair
  • Heavy metal
  • Liming
  • Tannery
  • Wool

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