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WORK IN PROGRESS — just a note for myself, nobody else reads this, except those whom I share this with 🙂

In the last two years, I have been researching the relationship between the textile industry waste and severe/life threatening (long-term) effects on human health. Specifically, I’ve been looking at data from the Citarum–WHO called it the most polluted river in the world–and the heavy metal toxicity in the water, notably in the upstream area, Dayeuhkolot and its surrounding area. Someday, once I’m healthy and strong enough, I wish to go back “home” (Dayeuhkolot is where I was born and raised) and, ideally, do some investigation on people who were born, raised, and live(d) there, especially those who were born in 1970s-1980s. [However, in my last visit I found out that finding these people turned to be a real challenge, an impossible job. These people were either no longer there or even if there were rumours about people who might have been impacted (died young, might have cancers etc.), there’re no medical records to be found. So, I am not sure what to do about this reality.]

Recently, sometime in 2020, there has been some kind of governmental cleaning project, so for a while the river looked better (cleaner). However, according to some environmental activists, the cleaning project only resulted in temporary changes as it didn’t address the root problem–waste management of the textile industry.

The total number of textile factories there today is much less than 3-4 decades ago. The industry started in 1960s and the area was designated as a national textile industrial zone in 1969 by President Suharto. With the official designation, the number of textile factories grew exponentially in 1970s. To lure more foreign investment, Suharto relaxed regulations to obtain company permit. Environmental impact analyses were not necessary to obtain operational permits. Consequently, a company didn’t not have to be responsible in managing its own wastewater. The peak of textile industry happened in the 1980s, with around 3,000 factories were in operation, located around the river from Dayeuhkolot to Majalaya.

When I lived there, the area had the highest concentration of textile factories. Those born in 1970s-1980s were significantly impacted, and these impacts most possibly are long lasting, stay throughout their adulthood.

Figure 1. Pathway of heavy metals sources and exposure to humans (source: Jyothi, 2021)

Chronic exposure to heavy metals, even when it is low dose, is damaging for human health (see Figure 1). Research elsewhere (India, the US) reveals that genotoxic carcinogens, namely chemicals that exert carcinogenicity via the induction of mutation, pose a cancer risk for humans even at very low dose and are much more harmful for children than adults. Pre-natal and early childhood’s exposure to genotoxic carcinogens may impact the DNA interaction properties, significantly increase the risk of future cancer. Moreover, some research argue that such an exposure has a direct causality and even facilitates later oncogenic events in adulthood and acts as a possible mechanism of developmental basis of adult disease.

There were 444 textile factories along the Citarum river in 2020, declined from around 800 in 2014. And, yet, severe effects of the industry were still experienced by Dayeuhkolot’s children of the 2020s. My data from that year (see the table below) still show horribly high levels of heavy metal in the water. In addition to dealing with air and water pollutions experienced in other places in Indonesia, notably in urban areas, people in Dayeuhkolot, especially those who were exposed to the toxicity during pre-natal and early childhood, reportedly have these problems (data from recent years): dermatitis, contact rashes, intestinal problems, delays in child development (inc. intellectual deficit), renal failure, chronic bronchitis, and a significant incident of tumours (inc. malignant ones). 

Below are the latest data on the heavy metal content in the water and the list of their associated impacts on human health, compiled from multiple sources.

From the table above, we can see that in all data points the levels of heavy metal elements were dangerously high. For 9 elements, with an exception of Mn (Manganese) where Bale Kambang (BK) displays the highest level, Dayeuhkolot (DK)’s levels were the highest.


red = impacting DayeuhKolot

Please pay attention on how most are carcinogenic.


  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • GI (gastrointestinal) disorders
  • Skin and eyes irritation & disorders
  • Respiratory problem
  • Haematological changes


  • Cardiovascular dysfunction
  • Skin and hair disorders
  • CNS (central nervous system) injuries
  • GI disorders
  • Liver damage
  • Carcinogenic (increased risk of cancer): colon, gastric, kidney, lung, and nasopharyngeal cancers
  • Cancer (causality): pancreatic and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma


  • Bronchitis
  • Dermatitis
  • Degenerative bone disease
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Liver damage
  • GI disorders
  • Lung injuries
  • Cancer: breast, esophagus, intestines, lung, stomach, testes, and (possibly) gallbladder cancers
  • Carcinogenic: pancreas, blood (chronic myeloid and lymphoblastic leukeumia)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Disorders in the metabolism of Zn and Cu
  • Affect calcium, phosphorus, and bone metabolisms


  • Neurological disorder (e.g. hearing and visual impairment)
  • Cardiovascular deficits
  • Endocrine deficits
  • Carcinogenic


  • CNS irritation and disorder
  • Severe mucosal irritation and corrosion
  • Capillary damage
  • Acute haemolysis
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Damages to organs: liver, brain, kidney, and cornea.


  • Kidney dysfunction
  • GI disorders
  • Dermal diseases
  • Carcinogenic: lung, larynx, bladder, kidney, testicular, bone, and thyroid cancers


  • Carcinogenic
  • Lung cancer
  • Skin irritation
  • Anemia
  • Diabetes


  • CNS injuries or neurological disturbance
  • Renal dysfunction
  • GI ulceration
  • Hepatotoxicity
  • Carcinogenic
  • Minimata disease
  • If passes through placental barrier may cause intra-uterine death, foetal resporption, and stillbirth


  • Neurological disorder
  • Decreased systolic blood pressure
  • Disturbed excresion of 17-ketosteroids
  • Carcinogenic
  • Haemolytic disorder: change in erythropoiesis and granulocyte formation


  • Embryo toxic and nephrotoxic effect
  • Skin allergies and contact dermatitis
  • Lung fibrosis
  • Cancer of respiratory tract


  • CNS injuries
  • Lung dysfunction
  • Haematological changes (anemia)
  • GI colic
  • Liver damage
  • Reduced pulmonary function
  • Cardiovascular dysfunction
  • Carcinogenic: kidney, lungs, brain, larynx, bladder tissues, and pancreatic cancers


  • Brain lethargy, focal neuronal deficits
  • Respiratory disorder
  • Damage to organs: pancreas, prostate, bone, muscle, liver, and gastrointestinal (GI) system
  • Increased risk of anemia
  • Carcinogenic: prostate cancer
  • Enhances the symptoms of the Alzheimer’s disease


Scientific sources:

  • Rachmaningrum, M. (2015). Konsentrasi Logam Berat Kadmium (Cd) pada Perairan Sungai Citarum Hulu Segmen Dayeuhkolot-Nanjung. Jurnal Reka Lingkungan3(1), 19-29.
  • Desriyan, R. (2015) Identifikasi pencemaran logam berat timbal (Pb) pada perairan Sungai Citarum Hulu segmen Dayeuhkolot sampai Nanjung. Jurnal Reka Lingkungan 3.1: 41-52.
  • Wardani, E. (2018). Identifikasi pencemaran logam berat raksa di sungai citarum hulu Jawa Barat. Jurnal Teknik Kimia Indonesia8(1), 17-23.
  • Budiman, B. T. P., Dhahiyat, Y., & Rustikawati, I. (2012). Bioakumulasi logam berat Pb (Timbal) dan Cd (Kadmium) pada daging ikan yang tertangkap di Sungai Citarum Hulu. Jurnal Perikanan Kelautan3(4).
  • Utami, A. W. (2019). Kualitas Air Sungai Citarum. 10.31227/
  • Handayani, C. O., Sukarjo, S., & Dewi, T. (2022). Penilaian Tingkat Cemaran Logam Berat Pada Lahan Pertanian di Hulu Sungai Citarum, Jawa Barat. Jurnal Ilmu Lingkungan.
  • Komarudin, D., & Hidayat, F. (2021). Analisis Kadar Cemaran Logam Berat Timbal (Pb) dan Kadmium (Cd) Pada Air Tanah Di Perumahan Perumnas Bekasi. ISTA Online Technologi Journal2(1), 8-13.
  • Ayu, A. T., & Roosmini, D. (2014) Uji Toksisitas Akut pada IPAL Terpadu Kawasan Industri Tekstil Terhadap Daphnia Magna di Dayeuhkolot. Jurnal Teknik Lingkungan, 20(2): 109-119.
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