Solving Pollution Problems, Saving Lives


August 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:


Indonesia: "Miracle" Mercury Machine 

Low-cost mercury recapturing retort


From The Pollution Blog, a report from Indonesia: Over the past two years, Blacksmith, working with local partner Yayasan Tambuhak Sinta, has been distributing low-cost retorts (like the one pictured here) to gold miners and gold shop owners in the remote mountains of Central Kalimantan - a hotspot of mercury emissions. These "miracle" retorts can recapture as much as 97% of mercury released during artisanal gold mining.

Blacksmith program manager Meredith Block recently spent a week traveling on foot and by car to reach these villages and mining camps. Read about her trip, and find out how much mercury was prevented from escaping into the atmosphere.


Blacksmith Identifies 600 Polluted Hotspots in Asia

child holding piece of lead - Ramcar plant, PhilippinesBlacksmith has completed the first ever detailed inventory of polluted sites in Asia, identifying and assessing over 600 hotspots in 17 countries. The project is part of Blacksmith's ongoing international effort to document the world's worst polluted places.

Supported by the Asian Development Bank, the inventory produced a comprehensive picture of the true extent of pollution's toll on the region that until now has only been hinted at.

"The scale of pollution is much greater than we previously thought,"  says Bret Ericson, Blacksmith's program manager.

Over the course of 18 months, Blacksmith experts not only identified key pollutants in Asia but also analyzed health risks at each site, studied how pollution affects health in the region, developed remediation cost estimates, and explored options for creating a cleanup fund.

Small Scale Operations to Blame, Lead a Key Pollutant

Among the findings was that pollution caused by small-scale family-run operations like informal battery recycling and artisanal gold mining is particularly widespread.  The inventory also identified lead as the key pollutant in over one quarter of the sites assessed.

"With this inventory we now have solid data that can be acted upon and shared with governments, pollution experts and funders, who have the power to support cleanup," notes Bret.

And that is what happened in July when Blacksmith organized a meeting in Manila that brought Asian leaders together to work on the pollution problem documented by the inventory.

This means that contaminated sites like the one in Meycauayan city near Manila in the Philippines will not be forgotten and ignored. Here, Blacksmith experts found villagers scavenging in a polluted battery factory for lead-filled items, which they then smelted down in their backyards. Moreover, villagers were also using lead-filled panels from batteries as flooring for their homes, a particularly dangerous practice since children walking barefoot on these are easily poisoned.

"Stories like this appear in the inventory again and again,"says Bret. "Now that we know the extent of the problem, we can begin to put an end to it."

India: An 8 Million Ton Toxic Waste Problem

India produces over 8 million tons of toxic waste every year and only has facilities capable of handling half that amount. This is according to Blacksmith's technical advisor in India, Dr. B. Sengupta, who recently gave an interview about India's growing toxic pollution problem.

In India, said Dr. Sengupta, anti-pollution laws exist mainly on paper. Instead of a few mega corporations, India has over five million small and mid-sized industries, making monitoring virtually impossible.  Read the full article here.


China: Partners Gather; New Focus on Heavy Metals

Blacksmith Brings Together Chinese PartnersIn July, Blacksmith brought together its partners in China to share results from the various pollution remediation projects completed in the country.

It was an opportunity for those working with Blacksmith in China to meet, greet and exchange stories, experiences and ideas, especially in the area of heavy metals pollution, which has been recognized as a key problem in the country.

Strengthening Ties for New Focus, New Projects

The gathering, in Guangzhou city in Guangdong province, also helped to strengthen crucial ties with Chinese officials, experts and academic leaders, who help facilitate Blacksmith's projects across the country. 

Addressing the partners, Blacksmith China director Dr. Sun Xuebing explained that "as an international NGO, our role is to act as facilitator and accelerator to provide technical assistance in responding to local demand. By working with partners, we have the confidence to go further, to contribute more to Chinese environment protection and pollution remediation."

Blacksmith is developing new projects and partnerships with various local agencies as part of China's master plan for heavy metals pollution prevention and remediation.

Following the meeting, Blacksmith and the China Research Academy for Environment Sciences conducted a joint scoping mission to South China, which suffers from serious heavy metals pollution.

Attending the meeting were representatives from the China Research Academy of Environment Sciences, the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research-China Academy of Sciences, Guangdong Institute of Eco-Environment and Soil Sciences, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Guangdong University of Technology, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's South China program director Madam Shenyu Guo.

The completed Blacksmith projects discussed at the meeting included:

  • the remediation of farmland in Shangba village in Guangdong province using rice plants to extract toxic cadmium from soil
  • the extraction of e-waste in Qingyuan city, in part utilizing "shaking tables" to remove heavy metals suspended in water
  • the environmental risk evaluation of pollutants leaked from damaged chemical factories and mines in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake