Solving Pollution Problems, Saving Lives


February 2011


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Blacksmith Institute works in some of the world's worst polluted places to solve pollution problems and clean up contaminated sites in order to save lives. Blacksmith is currently engaged in over 40 projects in 19 countries.



Blacksmith Institute






Health and Pollution Fund


Global Inventory Project - Database of Polluted Places


World's Worst Pollution Problems





"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.


Life-threatening pollution has already been eliminated in many wealthier nations.  Now Blacksmith is leading the fight to end it in low and middle income countries.

  • Identify: Blacksmith is building the world's first comprehensive global inventory of polluted sites, where lives are at risk. Once identified, these hotspots will be ranked in order of priority for cleanup. Blacksmith investigators are crisscrossing the globe and have already identified 2100 polluted sites in more than 40 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 project.



 2010 REPORT



Download Blacksmith's 2010 Pollution Report:  World's Worst Pollution Problems: Top Six Toxic Threats. 




Nominate a Polluted Site





In This Issue:


Comprehensive Philippine Lead Remediation Starts Shortly 


Blacksmith Institute is about to begin cleanup and surrounding remediation of an abandoned used lead-acid battery plant about 19 kilometers north of Manila in the Philippines.  It follows presentation of data gathered since July 2008 and as recently as last October, as well as subsequent engagement of government officials and community members in the on-site treatment/containment plan and education campaign.


The year-long project is expected to cost $100,000.  It is a collaboration between Blacksmith, the University of the Philippines, and the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando Water Quality Management Board.


Contaminated soil at the two-hectare location in Meycauayan City showed lead levels of 15,642 ppm  (US Environmental Protection Agency standards are 400 ppm) and dangerous levels of arsenic and cadmium.  Last fall’s health assessment of 30 adults and children showed all with upper respiratory track infections.  Seventy-five percent of the children and half of the adults were underweight.

A child holds a piece of lead from the site

Operational from 1978 to 2000, when the plant was in use local officials described community members, particularly children, with lung problems such as asthma and frequent coughing fits.  Plant workers suffered from observable brain damage from high blood-lead levels--some eight times the allowable range, requiring they take leave from work.  Workers generally chose not to use protective equipment because they found it uncomfortable to wear.


Hundreds of informal settlers resided just outside the wall of the former RAMCAR plant, but the majority were relocated in 2006 to a resettlement community.  However, 22 illegal squatter families still live immediately outside the perimeter fence surrounding the abandoned smelter.  All heads-of-households were interviewed face-to-face by trained researchers using a survey questionnaire; also a series of focus group discussions were conducted in communities near the former plant.  Both were designed to identify knowledge, attitudes and practices towards heavy metal pollution. 


It was evident people were exposed to toxins by inhaling the lead in dust; eating water spinach (Kangkong) grown along the fence; and using the soil as filling for yards and roads. While the facility is closed and guarded, some scavengers—families and their children—are known to bribe guards and gain entry at night to look for scraps for lead extraction. These residents did not understand the danger from lead and said they needed the money to supplement meager incomes.  Residents of nearby towns also scavenged for lead buried in the vicinity with one man reporting a $400 bonanza. 


Further, the site is located at an elevated level and local officials noticed silvery white substances in the area’s paved road after flood waters dried.  The region is home to nearly 165,000 people.




The key component of the scoping plan is remediation, which includes mapping the extent of the contamination, estimating the volume of contaminated soil, and recommending remediation technologies and strategies.  Remediation of the surrounding communities and houses will be implemented by Blacksmith and LEELIN Corp. with technical supervision from the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Environmental Management Bureau.  The initial estimated volume of contaminated soil is nearly 20,000 cubic meters.  Three bunkers are being developed for low, medium, and high levels of contaminated soil containment, 45x25 meters each.

Water samples taken from a local stream

Depending on blood-lead levels, frequent health monitoring will continue for a year to determine the reduction in lead levels.  All children and at-risk adults will be checked beyond one year.  LEELIN will conduct a feeding and supplemental vitamin program for children.


Health education will involve community forums and one-on-one orientations about the harm of lead handling and its impact on health, particularly for children.  Schools, especially in areas near the former site, will participate to promote cleanliness and good sanitation practices such as hand-washing.  A communications specialist will develop appropriate materials and design programs and community messaging; and local health workers also will be engaged in the health and sanitation campaign.




Introducing New Additions to the Blacksmith Team 


Widely experienced in the nonprofit sector, in both international and domestic social service, Andrea M. Couture has been Blacksmith's communications consultant since November. Her responsibilities include the website, press relations, and publications, among other assignments.


She is executive producer of "Journey Home," an in-process documentary film on 'soft power' in Afghanistan. Following 9/11, Andrea joined the Near East Foundation, an international development NGO working in the Middle East and Islamic North Africa, becoming Vice President, Development/Communications. Her government experience includes Director of Special Projects/Congressional Press Secretary for U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr., ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.


A managing editor, exhibited photographer and cable television producer, she has won top awards in news, feature, and investigative series reporting, silver medals for annual reports, and recognitions for direct mail and creativity. Her book on public health and international development, "For the People; For a Change," was researched in Haiti and published by Beacon Press.


She has done graduate work in foreign policy at MIT's Center for International Studies.


Sarita Gupta, Blacksmith's new senior consultant overseeing major individual gifts, is an executive with significant management skills and over 25 years of fundraising/communications/marketing experience in international relief and development. She will assist management, initiate systems, and supervise a full-time staffer.


Most recently Sarita was Vice President, Global Resources & Communications, for Women's World Banking, an international microfinance network, where she increased US revenues from $3 to $14 million in three years. Previously she was associated with CARE for 16 years, beginning as a deputy in planned giving and leaving as Executive Director of their Presidential Initiatives Fund for 7- and 8-figure donors. She also has worked for The Asia Society and American Friends Service Committee in New York City, and consulted for the social venture Acumen Fund.


She holds a B.A. degree in sociology from Delhi University in India and a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University, with a specialty in economic and political development and South Asia.


Charged with government coordination of Blacksmith's Chinese projects and based in Beijing, Yan Xiao brings a wealth of experience and expertise in public health for a number of international organizations, the World Bank among them.


Her professional background includes 13 years in infectious disease control, nine of them focused on HIV/AIDS prevention; and 11 years in public health and epidemiological research. Experienced in multisector coordination and communication with national and international organizations, she has nine years of international program management in HIV/AIDS.


Most recently she was Deputy Chief Manager/Associate Researcher for the China Global Fund AIDS Program Round Five, Beijing, where she was associated for the past three years. Previously she was a Program Officer/Assistant Researcher with the National Center for STD/AIDS Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing. From 1992 to 1996, she was a public health doctor at the Beijing Anti-epidemic Station, and interned at the HIV/AIDS Division of the Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Health, Beijing, while obtaining her master's in public health.


Yan received her doctorate in public and international health from the University of Birmingham, Alabama; master's degree in epidemiology from Peking Union Medical College; and bachelor's degree in preventive medicine from Harbin Medical University in China. She has completed a number of training courses in HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases at the University of Seattle, Washington; also in Hong Kong and Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand.


Jakarta Lead Poisoning Initiative Enters Remediation Stage 


Blacksmith Institute’s partner, the Indonesian Effort for Environment (KPBB), reports identification of 71 lead smelters and used battery disposal sites in Jakarta and its surroundings, and monitoring of 34 lead smelters, most with soil lead concentrations exceeding acceptable thresholds.  Blood-lead level testing of all nearby schoolchildren in two areas (Cinangka and Curug) exceeded tolerable levels established by the World Health Organization, according to Executive Director Ahmad Safrudin.


With results of research, communications, and site plan preparation now complete, KPBB began pilot remediation this month, continuing into March.  That is to be followed by final documentation and publication of policy recommendations to the Indonesian Government on management of this hazardous waste. All are parts of a joint Blacksmith-KPBB initiative to end lead poisoning from car battery recycling that overcame a rainy season that wouldn’t quit, bureaucratic delays, holidays to be observed, unavailable equipment, among other obstacles.


Abandoned Solid Waste




While air quality and blood-lead levels in Jakarta and surroundings did improve with the phase out of leaded gasoline in 2001, several areas still suffer from high lead contamination.  Used lead-acid battery recycling and smelting conducted in the open air and in densely populated urban areas remain a major problem.  Committed to ending leaded gasoline use in the entire country and reducing public health risks from these sources of lead poisoning, in early 2010, KPBB began to assess the degree of contamination from used lead-acid battery recycling and lead smelters.


In May, Blacksmith staff provided KBPP with equipment, technical expertise, and site assessment design.  KBPP staff were trained to use x-ray fluorescence lead testing devices, rapid assessment protocols, and blood-lead testing kits.  From the data, legacy smelters in three areas were identified in December as remediation targets—Cinangka, Curug, and Rawa Buaya in West Jakarta.


Armed with the research, the public perception/education/empowerment stage kicked in.  Blacksmith helped KPBB organize a stakeholder group, produce educational and outreach materials, run community education meetings, network and build partnerships with local health departments and other governmental bodies.


Community education program


“The sharing of data with Indonesian authorities all along has been a large part of this joint Blacksmith-KPBB program,” emphasized Blacksmith President Richard Fuller.  “Beyond remediating polluted villages and intervening in people’s lead exposure, this collaboration will culminate in a report highlighting policy recommendations to be presented to the Indonesian government,” he said.




Jakarta Post Article Highlights Blacksmith's Work to Reduce Blood-Lead Levels in Indonesian Children

Children Exposed to Lead Poisoning in Greater Jakarta

Research conducted in several areas in Greater Jakarta showed that a large number of children suffered from severe lead poisoning. 

The survey conducted by the Committee for the Phaseout of Leaded Gasoline (KPBB) and the New York-based Blacksmith Institute checked the level of lead in the blood of 400 children who lived in areas with high levels of exposure to lead, including 71 spots used as dump sites for used batteries and lead smelters.

“All the children living in areas for dumping used batteries had a blood lead level [BLL] way above World Health Organization [WHO] standards, which is 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood,” KPBB coordinator Ahmad Safrudin said Thursday.

The study said that in Cinangka village in Bogor, children living in the vicinity of a battery recycling plant had an average BLL of 32.62 micrograms per deciliter. 

A 7-year-old girl in Cinangka was found with a BLL of 60 micrograms per deciliter, while the lowest was a 6-yearold boy with a BLL of 16.2 micrograms per deciliter.

Lead affects a number of body functions, damaging organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys and reproductive and nervous systems. People can be exposed to lead through contaminated air, water, soil, food and consumer products. High levels of lead in the blood also adversely impacts children’s intelligence.

The survey also found that in Curug, Tangerang, the site of an illegal lead smelter, the average BLL for children was 24.18 micrograms per deciliter. The highest lead level, 47.80 micrograms per deciliter, was found in the blood of a 6 year old.

Safrudin blamed the lead poisoning on illegal businesses in the areas.

“We suspect illegal activities are to blame for the high level of lead poisoning. This has gone on for a long time and in the end it is the children who become the victims,” he said.

The KPBB and the Blacksmith Institute issued five recommendations for the government to counter lead


“First we need to clean up the sites. We propose that Cinangka village be the site for a pilot project.

Second, we need to address the state of health of the communities in the sites by involving all stakeholders,” Safrudin said.

He added that it was urgent to set up guidelines for local governments to deal with lead poisoning as well as to build better partnerships with used battery recycling plants, including dealing with environmental impacts.

What was also crucial, Safrudin said, was to campaign to raise awareness about the hazards lead posed to the public, government officials and businesses involved.

The government said it would follow through on all the recommendations.

The deputy assistant at the Environment Ministry’s hazardous waste management and rehabilitation of

contaminated sites division, Ridwan Tamin, said the ministry would carry out its own survey.

He added that if from the ministry’s study indicated foul play that endangered lives, the battery recycling plants would be punished and would have their license revoked.



Upcoming Speaking Engagements for Blacksmith President Richard Fuller


On March 2, Blacksmith President Richard Fuller will be a presenter at George Washington University’s conference on “Toxic Pollution in the Developing World—Scope, Public Health Impacts, and Practical Solutions.” 


The Washington, DC event is part of the University Sustainability Series, also sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health & the Environment, directed by Jerome A. Paulson, M.D., F.A.A.P.  Dr. Paulson is a member of Blacksmith’s Technical Advisory Board.


Fuller will outline improvements that Blacksmith has achieved to date and discuss ongoing work to tackle toxic pollution problems on a scale that can make a difference in the lives of the over 100 million people at risk.


Blacksmith President Richard Fuller


On March 12, he will keynote The Mount Sinai Global Health Training Center’s 9th annual conference with a paper titled, “Remediating Toxic Waste Sites in the Developing World.”  His talk will take place that Saturday morning at 10:10 a.m. at Stern Auditorium of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan.


The conference theme is “Toxins:  A Global Threat.”  It will feature presentations from expert professionals and a special screening of the documentary film, “Gasland,” about the natural gas drilling technology hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.”


In January, Fuller went to Johannesburg to participate in the United Nations Environment Program’s conference on donor community financing options to realize the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Chemicals Treaties.




Toxic Pollution in Poor Countries - Introducing "JH&P"



Blacksmith Institute has published the first issue of The Journal of Health and Pollution, a semiannual, on-line, open-access publication of peer-reviewed research and news.  “JH&P” can be found at


Included in the inaugural edition are invited commentaries:  Environmental Pollution and Human Health; Estimation and Action, from Local to Global and Back by David J. Hunter, the Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health; and The Impact of Environmental Contamination on Immunity: Implications for Childhood Vaccination Policy by Bruce D. Forrest of Forrest and Company, Inc.  The first edition also includes risk assessments of e-waste in Accra, Ghana, and arsenic in Bandlaguda, India; and a case study of arsenic remediation in Yunnan, China.


“JH&P” is managed by Sandra Page-Cook, MPH.  Bruce Forrest, MD, MBA and David Hanrahan, M.Sc are executive editors.  The Technical Advisory Board of the Blacksmith Institute serve as the editorial board and advisors.


Prospective authors are invited to submit manuscripts for the following upcoming issues:


How Toxic Pollution impacts Mortality and Morbidity in the Under Five Population of Poor and Middle Income Countries (submissions due no later than July 1, 2011, for October 2011 publication).


Toxic Pollution and Economic Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (submissions due no later than October 1, 2011, for January 2012 publication).


Further information, including detailed guidelines for authors can be found at







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