Zakir held the transparent plastic bottle up against the light of the sun to see for sure if there were anything inside. He turned it upside down and let the last drops of baby-pink colour liquid inside the bottle drop on his hand. It felt oily to him and he rubbed it on his naked body.
Seven-year-old Zakir found the bottle when he was sorting plastic bottles from a pile of garbage at Nurbagh in Kamrangirchar yesterday afternoon.
Zakir works at a shop that scavenge for plastic bottles from garbage and other plastic products for recycling.
He continued his work sitting on the garbage pile that smelt damp and horrible. Under the scorching heat, he often wiped sweat off of his face with his hand already smeared with unknown substances from the garbage.
Two other children were also working with Zakir on the polluted Buriganga. Hundred others were found engaged in different types of labour even on Friday, the weekend.
"I work seven days a week. And on Friday, I work and play simultaneously," said 10-year-old Shohag, who works with Zakir, just before diving into the pitch-black water of the Buriganga.
After a while, Shohag resumed work, still wet. There are at least 200 garbage-recycling shops in Kamrangirchar that employ at least 50 children. Children work at least 10 hours for Tk 100, said Zakiul Islam who employs Shohag and Zakir.
"Use of unknown substances may cause skin diseases and trigger allergies. And its repeated use on already affected skin may cause double infection," Associate Prof of Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital Asif Mujtaba Mahmud told The Daily Star.
"In the long run, double infection might damage kidney and heart," he added.
When government and non-government organisations in the country were holding press conferences to mark the "World day against child labour 2010", which is today, The Daily Star correspondents visited Kamrangirchar yesterday.
Even though children were seen engaged in menial work across the country, Kamrangirchar and Keraniganj are havens for child labour. Balloon factories, aluminium-utensil factories, rope factories, lathe machines and battery factories are among the worst places children work in these areas.
Newspaper reports last year about child labour in balloon and aluminium factories apparently went in vein. Children are still working in those factories in Kamrangirchar and Keraniganj.
"The government has to have special measure for rehabilitation of the children engaged in labour, otherwise it would be impossible to eradicate child labour," said Child Protection Specialist of Unicef, Bangladesh Aminul Islam.
According to the labour laws, children under the age of 14 cannot be employed in any industry that may cause harm to their health.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003 report, 3.2 million children are involved in labour and 1.29 million of them are involved in hazardous labour. The bureau considers work more than 43 hours a week as hazardous since it is detrimental to children's physical and mental health.