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The Pollution Connection: Vaccines, Poverty, IQ and Autism
Do Toxins Cause Autism? Nicholas Kristof's piece in the New York Times quotes an article by Blacksmith board member Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, the renowned professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The op-ed reiterates the dangers of environmental toxins, especially on developing fetusus, and Dr. Landrigan's increasing conviction that chemicals in the environment can cause injury to the developing brain and a host of other ailments.
The effects of contaminants in our environment is also summarized in two new Blacksmith papers -- one detailing the connection between pollution, poverty and IQ (do you know what happens when the average IQ in a population is driven down 5 points because of pollution?), and the other about pollution and vaccines. Both papers -- The Effects of Toxic Pollution in the Developing World, and Environmental Contaminants and the Immune System -- can be read here.
Also, Rockefeller Foundation has invited Blacksmith to reconvene at the Bellagio Center in Italy to move forward the Health and Pollution Fund (HPF), a key tool in our effort to end life-threatening pollution worldwide. The conference will be jointly hosted by Blacksmith, the World Bank, and Asian Development Bank. Over the years, the Bellagio Center has been the backdrop for many successful global efforts and the HPF's meeting there with innovators and collaborators is no doubt a good sign.
-- Richard Fuller, President, Blacksmith Institute
In This Issue
A Blacksmith-supported research project to remove chromium from tannery wastewater has beat out entries from universities and research institutions across the Philippines to win the Best Project of 2010 BPI-DOST Science Award.
Blacksmith backed the research of Ms. Maria Ivy Dela Cruz at the University of Philippines at Los Banos as part of an effort to find cleaner, low-cost technologies that can be used to control pollution in the massive Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando river system. Contaminated with industrial waste, the river is one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world.
Ms. Cruz's research was shared with the Tannery Association of Philippines in Meycauayan to help them be more environmentally compliant. "This is a key part of our solution. We want to stop pollution at its source. In this case, all the industries along the river," says Jenny Sunga, Blacksmith's Philippine coordinator.
The award is given out by the Bank of the Philippine Islands Foundation and the Department of Science and Technology.
Also in the Philippines, Blacksmith hosted a group of local and international students -- future environmental leaders -- who volunteered their time on several pollution cleanup projects. Here is a sampling of what they learned from their experience:
"Action is more powerful than advocacy. Awareness is important but showing people actual solutions is more effective." -- Fred Rose Balensosa, B.S. Human Ecology, University of Philippines, Los Banos
"I learned many things from our time together about environmental helath, about life in the Philippines, about what it means to be devoted to your work and your country... I am happy to continue helping out from afar in any way I can." -- Lindsey Horton, Masters in Pubic Health, Global Environmental Health, Emory University.
"The approach being employed is very participative and holistic in that in every activity, almost all community stakeholders are represented and are active. I am amazed with the different techologies and approaches they are employing to encourage industries to... control pollution at the source to help clean up the river." -- Fritzelyn Jimenez, B.S. Human Ecology, University of Philippines, Los Banos
Vladimir Kuznetsov began working with Blacksmith six years ago in Rudnaya Pristan, a town in the Russian Far East that was considered one of the top ten worst polluted places in the world. Toxic lead from an old smelter had contaminated almost everything in the town -- the food, the air, the ground.
"The need for cleanup was overwhelming and we could not do it all at once. So we decided to focus first on children and we began going from school to school."
Today, Vladimir continues managing the cleanup of kindergartens, playgrounds, sandboxes, football fields, beaches, school yards, camps and other areas used by children. And the results are clear to see. Time magazine reported that the Blacksmith project, conducted with the help of Petr Sharov of the Far Eastern Environmental Health Fund, had "sharply reduced lead contamination at little cost."
"This is why I do the work I do...to bring direct benefit to people," says Vladimir, who is a proud father of a four year-old girl. "We saved hundreds of children from the risk of lead poisoning. It is a good feeling."
Vladimir, who once managed a campaign to save the Russian Desman, a small, semi-aquatic mammal, is passionate about conservation and the environment. As Blacksmith's coordinator for the Russian region, his job includes looking for polluted sites, assessing them, and working with local champions to get things done. He admits that it is sometimes a challenge just to get residents to see the problem.
"I remember that the staff of a local hospital saying to us: "Lead poisoning? Nothing serious! We sometimes operate on people with AIDS without gloves!"
Vladimir continues, "here, socio-economic problems are still the priority and almost nobody worries about environmental issues, even though the WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that about 500,000 people die in Russia annually because of environmental reasons."
Vladmimir is doing his part to raise awareness about the issue. "This is my motherland and I wish it prosperity and health."
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