Investigative Teams Will Spread Out Across 80 Countries to Gather Data That Will Help Nations and Organizations Prioritize Worldwide Cleanup to Save Lives



is a joint effort of Blacksmith Institute,

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization,

Green Cross Switzerland,

with over $1 million in Funding from The European Commission


February 2009, New York, NY-Investigative teams trained by the nonprofit Blacksmith Institute will begin fanning out across the globe later this month to develop the first comprehensive database of the world's worst polluted places.  The landmark Global Inventory Project (GIP) will identify and assess sites in over 80 countries where pollution poses the greatest threat to human health, especially that of women and children.  Scheduled for completion by the middle of 2010, the GIP's key objective is to provide data to governments, international organizations and local communities that will enable them to prioritize cleanup activities and programs, saving millions of lives.


Led by Blacksmith Institute with over $1 million in funding pledged by the European Commission, the GIP is a joint effort of Blacksmith Institute, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Green Cross Switzerland.  The project is part of a larger Blacksmith effort to establish the Health and Pollution Fund (HPF).  The proposed fund (, about $500 million in size, will be composed of contributions from governments and multi-lateral donors and will be used to fight legacy pollution in developing countries.


 "The Global Inventory Project is the world's answer to the US Superfund initiative," says Richard Fuller, president, Blacksmith Institute.  "We are literally going to walk the earth, section by section, to survey the land and conduct tests in order to document large areas of critical contamination that have yet to be identified.  This is the first step towards fighting the life-threatening pollution that millions of people live with each day."  


"We already have the tools and the technology to fight pollution and save lives," adds Meredith Block, executive director, Blacksmith Institute. "What this Global Inventory does is to give us a crucial framework to help us make the most effective decisions about allocating our resources. People are dying everyday because of pollution.  We want to target the most at risk communities first."


The GIP will build upon the existing Blacksmith database of polluted places, which currently lists more than 600 sites around the world.  An estimated 600 to 1500 new sites will be assessed under the GIP and added to the database. (Read the 2008 Blacksmith Institute World's Worst Pollution Problems report at


Global Inventory Project (GIP) Process

Coordinated through Blacksmith's New York headquarters, teams of investigators in over 80 countries are currently being trained to conduct Initial Site Assessments (ISA) of polluted sites. The ISA protocol--developed by Blacksmith in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health--involves a visit to the site and a review of key technical and historical information. Working in collaboration with local and national authorities, the site assessment process reviews and collects as much information as possible from local NGOs, businesses, technical agencies, governments and other organizations.  Samples are taken where credible test results are not already available, and information collected related to population and pollutant pathway.


This data is then used to calculate a ranking for the site on the Blacksmith Scale. The Blacksmith Scale gives a number from 1 to 10, with the latter indicating the highest risk to human health from pollution.


All site information is reviewed by a team of technical experts. Other experts conduct field visits for quality assurance purposes. Summary reports for country authorities will be produced as needed.


Pollution: A Significant and Largely Ignored Health Threat

While most developing countries now have regulatory and institutional systems in place and are gradually improving the environmental performance of major industries, there remain many abandoned and neglected "legacy" or "orphan" sites that continue to poison local communities in developing countries.  Pollution kills, poisons and otherwise impacts the lives of over a billion people every year.


The adverse impacts of toxic pollution are particularly severe on children. Their smaller bodies, coupled with maturing biological systems, accumulate higher doses per unit of mass, causing greater harm. Certain pollutants can permanently damage brain cells and nervous systems in young bodies. The longer these problems are left unaddressed, the more children are harmed.   



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.  Blacksmith focuses on places where human health, especially that of women and children, is most at risk. Based in New York, Blacksmith works cooperatively 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 40 projects in 14 countries.

Blacksmith is also known for its annual World's Worst reports (; for the creation of the Blacksmith Scale (used around the world to rate levels of health risk from pollution); and for the Blacksmith database, the only resource of its kind, which currently documents over 600 of the world's worst polluted sites.  In 2008, Blacksmith began efforts to create the global Health and Pollution Fund ( to finance the cleanup and elimination of legacy pollution in the developing world.