New Blacksmith Report Out This Fall
We are currently at work on the new Blacksmith Institute report following a worldwide call for nominations. The latest report, which will focus on pollution solutions, is due out in late fall.
I am also looking forward to the annual Blacksmith golf benefit, which will now be held on September 22. Please note the change of date. It is one of my favorite events--both relaxing and rewarding. We raise thousands of dollars each year that pay for vital cleanup projects in the worst polluted places. So if you have not already RSVPed to the event, there's still time to tee off for a good cause. Come meet other Blacksmith supporters. I look forward to seeing you there.
-- Richard Fuller, President, Blacksmith Institute
The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) latest bulletin features an article on lead poisoning, which includes information from Blacksmith's leading work in the field. The IAEA piece, Toxic Playpen, documents the plight of children in Jamaica sickened by lead pollution and examines the economic causes.
The stories told are familiar the world over. Last year, Blacksmith went to Senegal after 18 children died suddenly of lead poisoning (read more in the July newsletter). More recently, over 1,000 children were sickened in China. Blacksmith is conducting lead cleanup projects in eight countries.
In Jamaica, the IAEA spoke to a mom with three children debilitated by lead poisoning, who recalled how her youngest son drowned after a seizure caused him to fall into a gully. Another mom talked about her daughter's seizures, vomitting and behavioural problems and lamented that even after medical treatments, a cure still seemed distant.
The IAEA article notes that Blacksmith ranks lead pollution from the improper recycling of used car batteries as one of the Top Ten worst pollution problems, affecting over 12 million people.
It also cites Blacksmith's strategy for dealing with the global issue. In addition to cleanup, this includes developing responsible policies for recycling batteries and providing other sources of income to discourage people from running informal operations like those in Jamaica, where batteries are broken by hand and smelted in kitchens and backyards.
Photo: Children in Haina, the Dominican Republic, where Blacksmith has completed the cleanup of a playground contaminated with toxic lead (Blacksmith Institute)
The Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando (MMO) river system is home to hundreds of thousands of people and numerous industries, most of which pump their untreated waste water into the river.
Because fishing is a major source of income and food for the community, Blacksmth is studying the consumption of fish and shellfish drawn from this toxic stew and determining the health risk in order to develop appropriate health advisories.
A contaminated fish pond was also remediated. After 15 days of treatment, the amount of heavy metals found in the pond was significantly reduced.
In addition, Blacksmith is working to identify polluted hotspots along the river system, particularly in public areas, and to determine the most cost-effected method to remove or clean the contaminated soil. Blacksmith experts are testing various remediation technologies including natural materials like the local mineral zeolite, which can "bind" and draw pollutants out of the ground when applied.
Photo: Talking to the community about fish consumption (Blacksmith Institute)
In a country as large and diverse as India, Promila Sharma understands the value in bringing people together, even if they are on opposing sides of an argument.
"I love the collaborative approach Blacksmith uses to tackle issues," says Sharma, Blacksmith's India coordinator, "where we can get the polluter, the community, NGOs and government officials all sitting together talking about the problem and setting aside contradictions. This is one of our strengths."
Sharma has witnessed the magic of these collaborative meetings working again and again. "There's always initial inhibition," says Sharma. But then the barriers slowly break down.
Sharma remembers one meeting in which she was literally scolded for working for a foreign organization and told to stay away. The very same group that chastised her would later submit a proposal for them to work together again on a new project.
Since joining Blacksmith in 2005, Sharma has identified and assessed some 37 polluted sites across India and managed numerous projects, including Blacksmith's innovative program in Muthia village using earthworms to clean contaminated soil (read more in the July newsletter)
"India is growing rapidly and we are working to find a balance between economics and the environment to maintain the sustainability of this growth," says Sharma.
When not fighting pollution, Sharma spends time with her two-year old son, who loves to visit her at Blacksmith's office in New Delhi. She also squeezes in time for Indian folk music and dancing, and pottery.
Photo: Sharma assessing a site near Gorva Pond in Vadodara, Gujarat, for future cleanup (Blackmsith Institute)
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