Solving Pollution Problems, Saving Lives


December 2009


Blacksmith Institute identifies and cleans up the world's worst polluted places, where children are most vulnerable and life expectancy can be as short as 45 years.

With over a billion people affected, polllution is a global public health crisis. Some experts estimate that exposure to pollution causes 40% of deaths annually.

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Health and Pollution Fund

Global Inventory Project - Database of the World's Worst Pollluted Places

Lead Poisoning and Car Batteries

Artisanal Gold Mining (Mercury Poisoning)

World's Worst Polluted Places Reports




That Tap Waster is Legal But May be Unhealthy

EPA Reports Decrease in Toxic Chemical Pollution

Bhopal Marks 25 Years Since Gas Leak

Blog: Potty Training Pigs and other Great Solutions

New Mexico Dairy Pollution Sparks "Manure War"




"This is a finite problem. There are a finite number of toxic hotspots around the world. We just have to find them and clean them. We can end life-threatening pollution in our lifetime."

-- Richard Fuller, founder, Blacksmith Institute.

Pollution that kills, poisons and cripples has already been eliminated in much of the developed world.  Now Blacksmith is leading the fight to end it in developing countries.

  • Identify: Blacksmith is building the world's first comprehensive global inventory of polluted sites to identify hotspots and rank them in order of priority for cleanup. Blacksmith investigators are currently crisscrossing the globe to assess some 3000 sites in more than 60 countries.
  • Implement: Blacksmith is working to create the Health and Pollution Fund - a proposed $500 million public health fund to support the cleanup of the world's worst polluted places identified by the global inventory. Cleanup is scheduled to begin under the HPF in 2010.


 2009 REPORT


Download the 2009 Blacksmith report:  World's Worst Polluted Places: 12 Cases of Cleanup and Success. Read 12 pinpricks of light and other news reports.




Nominate a Polluted Site


Save a Life this December

Give the gift of LifeIf you donate just $5 a day, you will be able to save one life by Christmas.

That's because for the month of December, your contribution will be doubled with a matching grant from Blacksmith's board.  So in 5 days, your contribution of $5 a day would be worth $50!  Blacksmith's pollution cleanup can save a life for as little as $42.

So please consider taking our $5 a Day December Holiday Challenge

People always wonder what to give someone who has eveything. This is the gift that can be everything for someone.

There's still time to save a life, or two.  Thank you for your generosity.

-- Richard Fuller, President, Blacksmith Institute


Behind the Global Inventory Project 

Last year, Blacksmith began an ambitious project to find, map and document the majority of the world's worst polluted places with human health impact.  The Global Inventory Project (GIP) is the first comprehensive database of its kind. A worldwide effort is being planned to clean up the sites identified. To date, about 1/3 of the inventory project has been completed.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to build such a global inventory?  Here are some numbers behind the project to date:

  • 140: the number of Blacksmith investigators currently assessing polluted sites around the world
  • 20: the number of coordinating staff on the project
  • 12: the number of regional training sessions that have been held around the world linking local investigators with international experts
  • 40: the number of countries visited so far
  • 60: the number of countries the inventory will cover
  • 1,285: the number of polluted sites assessed to date
  • 3,000: the number of polluted sites expected to be assessed

Making A List and Checking it off 

Global Invenstory Project meetingOver the past year, Bret Ericson has been  traveling the world helping to compile a unique list -- the first ever global inventory of polluted places

"Currently, a worldwide list of sites where pollution is acutely affecting human health does not exist," says Bret, the task manager for Blacksmith's Global Inventory Project. "This makes estimating the population at risk very difficult."

Armed with GPS devices, Bret and his team are assessing some 3000 sites in more than 60 countries. Even now,  there are still some sites that shock him, like the Gorlovka chemical factory, which he came upon earlier this year.

"This site was flooring.  It was almost entirely abandoned, but filled with ammonia, TNT and an extremely lethal substance called MNCB used in chemical  weaspons.  All of this was within 100 yards of a city of 300,000 people.  It is a huge potential catastrophe."

A practical idealist, Bret came to Blacksmith with a Masters degree from the London School of Economics. "I studied the use of charcoal, which causes a massive amount of indoor air pollution in poor countries."  But at Blacksmith, he notes, he's come to realize the true scope of pollution.  "Based on our global inventory, we estimate that more than 100 million people are acutely affected."

"Gathering information is the first step in cleaning all these polluted sites," says Bret. "In many of these places, kids are the most severely affected. I am always sad when I see a smiling child who has tested above the allowable limits for toxins like lead because I know her life is compromised."

The Global Inventory Project has brought Bret an added benefit -- a worldwide network of friends. "Blacksmith's local coordinators are amazingly dedicated but don't get much attention," says Bret. "Pollution does not necessarily jump to mind when many people think about public health threats in poor countries. Our challenge is to articulate the scope of the global pollution problem."

Photo:  Bret Ericson (far right) at the announcement of the donation of leadcare blood testing equipment in Mexico.