Solving Pollution Problems, Saving Lives


March 2010


Blacksmith Institute identifies and cleans up the world's worst polluted places, where children are most at risk from death, disease and disability.

Pollution 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




Lead Recycling Exacts High Price for Health

Polluted Water Kills More People Than War

Hazardous Sandstorm Reaches Across China to Taiwan, Hong Kong

When Cooking Can be Deadly




"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


Pink Crocodiles and the New Front Against Pollution in India

Jairam Ramesh, Richard Fuller, speak in IndiaI was just in India to speak at a conference, along with Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Minister for the Environment and Forests, who laid out his vision for a pollution-free India. The Minister has decided to make cleanup a priority in his country and we are excited at the prospect of being India's strategic partner in this area.

Read more in the Pollution Blog.  Among the stories I heard in India were reports of pink crocodiles with white tongues (a result of dye-polluted waters).

-- Richard Fuller, President, Blacksmith Institute

In This Issue 


SENEGAL:  PRI's The World Reports on Blacksmith's Lead Cleanup

Blacksmith cleanup in Senegal"The tragedy of this community is really representative of a  larger issue we are seeing in almost every developing country as the price of lead has gone up and we are seeing more cars on the road and more people in urban environments," Blacksmith's Meredith Block told Public Radio International reporter Jori Lewis.

Lewis had traveled to Senegal to get a close-up look at the lead pollution problem, which killed 15 children in 2008, and Blacksmith's efforts to remove toxic lead from homes

Lewis' report featured a woman named Kine Dior, who had been recycling lead from used car batteries by hand for 20 years, and Seynabou Barry, whose toddler became ill, had seizures and eventually died.

 Read or listen to the full report Lead Recycling Exacts High Price for Health.

(Photo: Cleaning and decontaminating homes in Senegal, credit:  Blacksmith Institute)

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: New Park, Fresh Start in God's Paradise

March 6 was the grand opening of a new park in Paraíso de Dios, or God’s Paradise, in Haina, the Dominican Republic.  It was big news in all the local media because the park was once highly contaminated with toxic lead.

Blacksmith's cleanup efforts has brought down lead levels in the soil from between 11,400 to 463,970 parts per million of lead to just 10 to 300 parts per million of lead.  The Mayor of Haina has agreed to continue working with Blacksmith. Read all about it in the Pollution Blog.


Tapping Human Ecology to Clean up Pollution in the Philippines

Jenny Sunga talks to students about pollutionLast year, Jenny Sunga traveled for ten hours by land into the rugged mountain ranges of Northern Philippines and was surprised by what she found.

"I never expected that people still live in these areas, but I saw a lot of people affected by pollution there."

Jenny, Blacksmith's coordinator in the Philippines, was investigating the remote region as part of Blacksmith's Global Inventory Project to document the world's worst polluted hotspots. The source of the contamination was gold mines - both active and abandoned.

"Usually in developing countries like the Philippines, environmental protection is second only to economic gains,"  says Jenny. "When I speak with backyard gold smelters who handle toxic chemicals all day, they will tell us, "We are still alive, we are not sick."  But when I ask if they will have their children work in the same environment, without hesitation, they say no because they know it is dangerous.  But unless a family member falls really ill, no one really thinks about cleanup and protection."

To mobilize people for change, Jenny realized she had to take into account people's livelihoods. It is something she understands well as an expert in human ecology, studying the different ways people relate to and use their environment.  Jenny, who also teaches the subject at the University of the Philippines, points to the cleanup of the massive Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando river system near Manila as an example.

One of her biggest collaborators on the project, Mary Lazaro, is president of the Tannery Association.  When asked about working with Jenny, Lazaro replied, "the project gave us hope that we could help clean up our polluted river and that our industry could clean up our act."

With more tanneries now working with Blacksmith to curb pollution, the river cleanup is finally starting to take hold, even if efforts are interrupted by typhoons that spread the pollution. Last year's Typhoon Ketsasa, the worst in 40 years, was a "wake up call." 

In times of disaster, Jenny notes, cooperation among the entire community is paramount. "I always believe that no one person or sector can do it alone to solve pollution problems or any other societal problem."

When the weather clears, Jenny can be found mountain biking with her husband and three dogs.

(Photo:  Jenny Sunga speaking to students about pollution, credit:  Blacksmith Institute)