Journeying to The Hague at the invitation of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of the Environment, Blacksmith Institute President Richard Fuller reported on "toxic hotspots" inventoried in the developing world. 28 ministerial staff joined by representatives of Dutch nongovernmental organizations and universities attended the luncheon briefing, participating in a follow up discussion that had to be cut off because of time constraints.

They had been unable to join other senior level participants at Blacksmith Institute's Bellagio, Italy, conference on legacy pollution held in September, and requested the meeting.

"An issue under-recognized by the international community, legacy pollution is a global health problem of significance...we're dealing with mitigating immediate health risk," Fuller summed up, "with thousands of hotspots likely affecting over 100 million people."

The majority of sites are small or medium with no responsible party or caretaker and need to be addressed site-by-site, he continued. Main toxins are heavy metals, he added, with petroleum products, persistent organic pollutants (POP), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and radioactivity among others.

"International response is appropriate," Fuller emphasized, "because this industrialization was driven by Western demand, so it's fair for the cost to be shared by governments and other parties. And," he added, "solutions are cost-effective, perhaps as low as $10 per affected person, as well as permanent."

The formal presentation aroused a wide-ranging q-and-a session:

* How do you deal with multi-pollution? Identify the key pollutant, then others.

* What pro-active measures are being taken on policy? Blacksmith is working with governments and United Nations agencies. And UNIDO (UN Industrial Development Organization)? A key partner on global monitoring and cleaner production.

* What about the authorities and confidentiality? Blacksmith always collaborates with governments and does not publicize any data they want kept confidential. That collaboration avoids conflicts.

* What about biotechnology? Blacksmith uses worms, molasses, and a lot else.

* How does that 100-million-affected-people figure compare with deaths from AIDS and malaria? Pollution can be a complicating factor in death. Blacksmith is researching the measurement of people's disability and quality of life.