Press Kit/Fact Sheet

Blacksmith Institute

Solving Pollution Problems, Saving Lives


Press Contact: Magdalene Sim,

About Blacksmith Institute * Resources * Access to Pollution Experts   * Programs/Projects * In-Country Representation * Blacksmith Focus * Cost Effectiveness * Filling a Crucial Gap * Facts about Pollution * Pollution ReportsMission Statement * Strategy * Local Empowerment and Support * Staff and Advisors * Partners


About Blacksmith Institute

Blacksmith Institute is an international not-for-profit organization dedicated to solving life-threatening pollution issues in the developing world. A global leader in this field, Blacksmith addresses a critical need to identify and clean up the world's worst polluted places, focusing on sites where pollution threatens human health, especially where children are most at risk.

Based in New York, Blacksmith works cooperatively around the world in partnerships that include governments, the international community, NGOs and local agencies, to design and implement innovative, low-cost solutions to save lives. Since 1999, Blacksmith has completed over 50 projects; Blacksmith is currently engaged in over 30 projects in 15 countries.

Blacksmith Institute is known for:

  • the annual World's Worst Polluted Places/Pollution Problems reports (download all reports at
  • the creation of the Blacksmith Index (used around the world to rate levels of health risk from pollution). The Blacksmith Index was developed by Blacksmith's technical experts to prioritize sites for remediation based on their risk to human health. It uses the population affected, the characteristics of the pollutant, and the severity of the pathway to provide a 1 through 6 ranking of every site assessed.
  • the Blacksmith database, the only resource of its kind, which currently documents over 2,100 of the world's worst polluted sites. Blacksmith is currently expanding this database with the Global Toxic Sites Identification Program, a worldwide effort to assess and document some 3000 polluted sites in over 60 countries.

In 2008, Blacksmith began efforts to create a global alliance to support the cleanup and elimination of legacy pollution in the developing world. The new Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) was formed in 2011 with Blacksmith serving as Secretariat.  The GAHP is the first effort of its kind dedicated to addressing the threat of toxic pollution on a global scale. 

In 2011, Blacksmith was awarded the UN-backed Green Star Award for its work in environmental emergencies, specifically the lead poisoning outbreak in Nigeria.

Blacksmith Institute is accredited with observer status by The United Nations Environmental Programme's Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, giving Blacksmith an entry point into policy dialogue with UNEP.  

Blacksmith has been awarded a 4-star rating, the highest possible rating for sound fiscal management, by Charity Navigator, the largest independent evaluator of the financial health of philanthropic organizations. 


Access to Pollution Experts

Interviews and Field Access to Blacksmith projects around the world may be available on request. Please contact us to speak with Blacksmith Institute President Richard Fuller and other experts, including members of our Technical Advisory Board, for topics including:

  • Global pollution problems and solutions
  • the world's worst polluted places
  • the world's worst pollution problems
  • public health issues/pollution and disease
  • children and pollution/health effects of pollution
  • lead pollution (eg: from used-lead acid battery recycling)
  • mercury pollution (eg: from artisanal gold mining)
  • Heavy-metals pollution (eg: chromium pollution from tanneries)
  • e-waste and industrial waste 
  • legacy pollution
  • Blacksmith projects around the world

Blacksmith Programs/Projects

Since 1999, Blacksmith has completed over 50 projects; Blacksmith is currently engaged in over 30 projects in 15 countries. Search projects here, see success stories. Programs include:

The TSIP endeavors to identify and screen contaminated sites in low- and middle-income countries with potential human health impact. The TSIP is not intended to be a comprehensive inventory of such sites, but rather an effort to begin to understand the scope of the problem.

As part of the TSIP, more than 1,500 sites have been screened in 47 countries. An additional 1,000 sites have been identified for future screening. The actual number of contaminated sites in low- and middle-income countries with potential human health impact is clearly much greater. By comparison, there are an estimated 90,000 contaminated sites in the United States alone. No good estimates currently exist on the potential number of sites in low- and middle-countries, but the total is likely to exceed the current number of sites identified by the TSIP by at least an order of magnitude.

Blacksmith is the leading organization working to clean up lead pollution caused by the improper recycling of used car batteries. This is one of the worst pollution problems in low-and middle-income countries, one that is growing with consumer demand for cars. Lead poisons over 12 million people, mainly women and children. It is the most common environmental disease among children living in the developing world. Projects are ongoing in Senegal, Dominican Republic, Philippines, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala and India.

UNIDO (The United Nations Industrial Development Organization) estimates that artisanal gold mining results in the release of an estimated 1,000 tons of toxic mercury per year, which constitutes about 30 percent of the world's mercury emissions. At least a quarter of the world's total gold supply comes from artisanal gold mining.

Some 15 million gold miners, including 4.5 million women and 600,000 children, are poisoned by direct contact with toxic mercury. In addition, mercury rises and travels, dropping into rivers, oceans and seas, contaminating seafood far and wide.

Blacksmith is working with UNIDO's Global Mercury Project in Senegal, Indonesia, Mozambique, and Cambodia.

In-Country Representation

Countries include Cambodia, China, the Dominican Republic, Guinea, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Tanzania, Thailand, and Zambia. Headquarters:  New York City, London.

Blacksmith Focus

  • Blacksmith focuses on pollution that poses a threat to human health, working in highly polluted places where children, in particular, are most at risk. 
  • Blacksmith's focus is on implementing solutions.  Blacksmith does not function as a watchdog. Co-operation with local champions and stakeholders is key.


  • Blacksmith's method of remediating highly polluted sites -- sometimes using worms, molasses and other low-cost solutions -- is one of the most cost effective ways to improve life expectancy in the developing world. Blacksmith projects range in cost between $1 and $50 per year of life gained.
  • The cost to save a human life through the removal of hazardous pollution on Blacksmith Institute projects can be as low as $42. (* study reviewed by the centers for children's health and environment at Johns Hopkins University, Hunter College and the Mt. Sinai School of Public Health.)

Filling a Crucial Gap 

  • Blacksmith is the leading organization active in toxics cleanup on a global scale.
  • Most current international programs regulate the production and use of select toxins and the trans-boundary movement of waste rather than the mitigation or remediation of existing pollution. It is a global problem that is just emerging on the international radar screen. 

Facts About Pollution

  • Click here for interesting facts about pollution that you might not know, such as who the worst polluters are.

Blacksmith's Annual World's Worst Polluted Places/Pollution Problems Reports

Since 2006, Blacksmith's yearly reports have been instrumental in increasing public understanding of the health impacts posed by toxic pollution, and in some cases, have compelled cleanup work at pollution hotspots. Blacksmith reports have been issued jointly with Green Cross Switzerland since 2007. All reports are available online at

2006: The Ten Most Polluted Places
2007: Top Ten Most Polluted Places
2008: The World's Worst Pollution Problems
2009: 12 Cases of Cleanup and Success
2010: Top Six Toxic Threats
2011: The World's Top Ten Toxic Pollution Problems
2012: The Top Ten Sources of Pollution By Global Burden of Disease

How Blacksmith Works

Mission Statement

Blacksmith Institute’s mission is to develop and implement solutions for pollution-related problems in the developing world, particularly in locations where there is a direct effect on human health.

Blacksmith's Strategy

Blacksmith focuses on locations throughout the developing world where human health is most affected by pollution. Our programs involve a multi-step process of:

1) Identifying polluted places in the developing world, with nominations received from members of the international community and through the internet; and assessed and compiled in our database through our Toxic Sites Identification Program.

2) Assessing the health risks at those locations by: 

  • Reviewing nominations with a Technical Advisory Board of leading international specialists on a rolling monthly basis.
  • Visiting candidate sites with likely high health risk implication. 
  • Conducting an Initial Site Assessment: a triage protocol that validates likely health implications, and enables the design of an intervention. 


3) Designing and implementing a remediation strategy tailored to the specifics of the site in question, using local champions to implement the project in a cooperative fashion.

Local Empowerment

We believe that problems are only solved when there is someone locally to guide the work and champion the solution. That person might be a passionate government official, the leader of a community-based organization, a local council member, or a local resident. This approach capitalizes on local knowledge and networks, enables practical responses within communities, and is inclusive of all site stakeholders from community leaders and local governments, to industry, national and international actors.


Blacksmith supports its local partners with more than just grants so that solutions can be implemented in the most cost effective and direct manner. Blacksmith provides:

  • Technical Research: We bring the necessary resources to research a pollution problem and its proposed solutions thoroughly. We partner with scientific and technical groups in the U.S. (and also in Europe) that have demonstrated expertise in areas relevant to pollution remediation. 
  • Strategic Assistance: We provide help with project planning and implementation planning, using our experience in similar projects to enable local champions to describe a credible methodology for site remediation, and move forward with it. 
  • Networking Capabilities: We develop collaborative networking opportunities for our partners, linking them to the most appropriate resources to meet their needs, including multilateral organizations such as the World Bank. 
  • Financial Support: Through the generosity of our personal and institutional funders, we provide seed money, and potentially continuing support to projects that have demonstrated clear successes in pollution remediation.  

Staff and Key Advisors

Partners and Supporters