Solving Pollution Problems, Saving Lives


November 2009


Blacksmith Institute works to clean up the world's worst polluted places

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Health and Pollution Fund

Global Inventory Project (database of world's worst pollluted places)

Lead Poisoning and Car Batteries

Artisanal Gold Mining (Mercury Poisoning)

World's Worst Polluted Places Reports




Report Notes Few Toxic Cleanup Successes

A Dozen Countries Take on Toxic Pollution

Can the World's Most Polluted Places Ever be Cleaned?

Global Pollution-Fighters Find Scant Success

Lead-Poisoned Dominican Town Now a "Success"

Smuggling Europe's Waste to Poorer Countries

Clean Water Laws are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering

EPA Study Finds Toxic Chemicals in Fish Widespread

Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways




Health and Pollution  Fund

Blacksmith is leading the global fight to eliminate life-threatening pollution in the developing world with the creation of the Health and Pollution Fund (HPF).

As part of the HPF, Blacksmith investigators are currently crisscrossing the globe to build the world's first comprehensive global inventory of the worst polluted places with the most at-risk communities.

These toxic sites will be ranked in order of priority for cleanup under the HPF. Over 200 sites will be targeted for remediation beginning in 2010.




Nominate a Polluted Site


Going Online to Take Pollution Offline

Blacksmith has taken the fight against pollution online! Now there are so many more ways to learn about the toll of pollution and what you can do to stop this global killer.  Here's how:

The Pollution Blog charts our progress as we work to clean up the world's worst polluted places, one site at a time.

Be a fan of Blacksmith on Facebook to join a vibrant community working together to bring an end to pollution.

Follow us on Twitter to spread the latest news and studies about pollution.

Tell your friends to subscribe to the Blacksmith newsletter, which you are reading now.

There's a big world out there to clean.  Help us get the word out.  Thanks.

-- Richard Fuller, President, Blacksmith Institute

The End of Pollution? New Report Highlights Top 12 Pollution Solutions That May Pave The Way

World's Worst Polluted Places report 2009It's here.  The 2009 Blacksmith Institute report - World's Worst Polluted Places: 12 Cases of Cleanup and Success.

While past reports highlighted the world's worst polluted places and pollution problems, this year's report focuses on the positive. It spotlights 12 pinpricks of light -- these are the small, bright spots of success in our polluted landscape.

The sad truth is that although Blacksmith's database documents over 1000 extremely polluted sites still waiting for cleanup, only 45 "success" nominations were received from around the world.  While the 12 successes in the report are far below what is needed, a success is a success. And these examples may help pave the way to the end of life-threatening pollution.

Since 2006, Blacksmith reports have helped to raise awareness about the toll of pollution. Read some of the news generated by the 2009 report in the New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press, IPS, Scientific American and more.

"Lead Head" Scientist Travels the World for Blacksmith

Jack Caravanos in Peru

Jack Caravanos has cut his way through jungles in Panama, climbed mountains in Peru, dodged cobras in India, and waded through murky rivers in the Dominican Republic, all to get a sample of contaminated soil, air or water.  He has fallen and slipped but he proudly maintains that has never dropped a collection vial.

"Sometimes people call me a 'lead head,'" says Jack, referring to his obsessive work assessing and remediating sites contaminated with toxic lead.

A global environmental health expert, Jack directs the M.S. and M.P.H. program in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at Hunter College of the City University of New York.  He became a member of Blacksmith's Technical Advisory Board in 2005 when Blacksmith conducted its first survey of the world's worst polluted places. "Richard (Fuller) needed some technical expertise to evaluate the health severity of these sites in relation to the population at large.  So I volunteered my services," says Jack.  "I see myself as a science advisor."

With Blacksmith, Jack hopes to conquer what he calls the "last frontier"-- environmental health in the developing world, in particular the issue of lead pollution.

"When contrasted to the developing world, our air, water and land are magnitudes cleaner," notes Jack.  "In developing countries, the economic value of lead is so high that backyard car battery recyclers are everywhere. I see it all the time, in almost every city I visit.  Mothers and fathers breaking up old car batteries to get at the lead. All the while their kids play nearby," says Jack.

"This problem is so preventable yet we see thousands of kids worldwide sickened with lead poisoning. This is the crisis I want to focus on.  This is what excites me and brings me to Blacksmith."

Golf Benefit Raises Money for Cleanup

Blacksmith's annual golf benefit in Tuxedo, New York, brought out droves of friends and supporters.  Over $30,000 was raised in one afternoon on the green. Blacksmith thanks everyone for their generous contributions.  The money raised will help fund more cleanup and produce more success stories.

Babies and Lead

Did you know that blood lead levels increase by approximately 20% during pregnancy in all women?  This is the release of bone lead, stored over years of exposure, into the blood.  Maternal blood lead crosses freely into the placenta, and infant blood levels are on average 19% higher than that of their mother at the time of birth.

In addition, infants and young children can be exposed to toxic lead via breast milk or formula prepared with lead-contaminated drinking water.  Children are also more vulnerable because they crawl and play on the floor, where they stand to ingest more lead in a contaminated environment.

Blacksmith has compiled a summary of the effects of lead poisoning on maternal child health. It is a growing problem in the global south (eg: the Dominican Republic - see story below)

Lead comes from mining and smelting operations, gun and ammunitions factories, flaking lead-based paint, the production of leaded ceramic and pottery glazes (read about ceramics producers in Mexico in the August newsletter), and most of all, the improper recycling of used car batteries, one of the worst pollution problems in the world.

Dominican Republic: Paraíso de Dios Receives Additional Help

in front of house in HainaThe cleanup of Paraíso de Dios, or God's Paradise, near Haina in the Dominican Republic can now continue with additional funding of $147,165 from the Inter American Development Bank.

The money will support ongoing work to reduce extremely high blood lead levels in the community, especially in children, whose small bodies are at the hightest risk of permanent damage. 

In 1997, the average lead concentration for someone living in this "Dominican Chernobyl" was 71 ug/dl.  As of March this year, these levels have dropped to 28 ug/dl.  The additional funds will help move the community towards the EPA standard of 10 ug/dl.

The funds will also be used to convert land, newly cleaned by Blacksmith, into a playground and park. In 2006 when Blacksmith began working on the project, the soil tested contained 11,400 to 463,970 parts per million of lead.  Today, after the removal of some 6000 cubic meters of lead-contaminated soil, tests in the area show the presence of only 10 to 300 parts per million of lead. This is a level considered safe in the U.S. 

To kids here, this dramatic reduction of toxic lead in the soil means just one thing -- that they can soon play barefoot without being poisoned.


Philippines: Floods and Landslides Affect Pollution Cleanup Projects

An unprecedented string of topical storms and typhoons hit Manila and its outlying areas recently with the worst floods in 40 years. The damage caused slowed some of the progress made in the cleanup of the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando (MMO) river system, which we reported in the last newsletter.

One of the dirtiest bodies of water in the world, the Meycauayan river swelled to as high as 15 feet, spreading its polluted contents far and wide. The floods also washed away some pilot remediation plots, where various cleanup methods were being tested.

Jenny Sunga, Blacksmith's Phlippines field coordinator, will be assessing damage to the cleanup project site in the coming weeks.  She will also be testing the soil for toxic heavy metals to gauge the level of pollutants spread by the floods.

There is good news - the alliances Blacksmith established with the community will help in recovery efforts, and studies done before the storms to develop health advisories will continue to be useful.

We will report updates in future newsletters. In the meantime, we join the world in hoping for a quick recovery to everyone affected by the disaster.