The increasing leather industry in Brazil is killing the local environment. Workers in this industry are impacted by toxins and chemicals; waste disposals are rejected to the rivers and environment. China and India are world leaders in this industry, but in the past few decades, Brazil is increasing its production.
In Icoaraci (State of Belem) more than 130 000 people are exposed to toxic materials due to the leather industry, the firms Fênix Curtidora, Curtume Idea and Curtume Couro Norte are rejecting their toxic materials to the igarapé Piraíba. (An igarapé is a small branch or canal in a river). This toxicity has already been proved by the State Public Ministery and in collaboration with Instituto de Pesquisas Científicas e Tecnológicas do Estado do Pará (IEPA). The leather comes from cattle, sheep, or even alligators. Since 2004, communities have made claims against these enterprises denouncing bad smells, water contamination and some impacts in their health. One of the studies from researchers shows that one toxic element used in the leather preparation process is chromium which is irritant, affecting the upper respiratory tract, obstructing air ducts, and increasing the chances of developing lung, nasal, or sinus cancer. Is linked with asthma, bronchitis, polyps of the upper respiratory tract and pharyngitis. In 2005, because of the pressured by community associations in Icoaraci, the Executive Secretariat of Science, Technology and Environment (SECTAM) sent technicians to inspect the Leather tanneries (Fenix, Ideal and Norte). Due to the results SECTAM began to oversee the activity. After this, University of Pará collaborated with the firms to provide technical solutions to decrease pollution. But, according with the Icoaraci residents (who have fought for many years) the government needs to be stricter in the adoption of measures to combat pollution caused by tanneries in the rivers. In addition to the chemicals, they dennounced animal fat that pollutes and causes intense odor of rotting flesh around and at great distances.