Solving Pollution Problems, Saving Lives


January 2010


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

 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




Globalized Pollution: Asian Smog Floats to American Skies

Gravel BeachesTrapping Oil from 1989 Exxon Spill


Report Details Cruise Industry's Record of Pollution


Air Pollution Can Harm Human Reproduction


Tehran Air Pollution Exceeds Acceptable Level


Sydney's High Air Pollution Days Double


A Pacific Island Challenge to European Air Pollution





"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


Blacksmith Celebrates a New Year with a New Grant

This is the year we will mark the beginning of the end of life-threatening pollution.  I say this optimistically because we just received a new $900,000 grant from the Asian Development Bank for our Global Inventory Project to identify and document the world's worst polluted places. The funds will allow us to complete our worldwide assessments, which is one-third done (read update in Dec. newsletter), and move forward to solve these problems.

This renewed support for the Global Inventory Project means that we are in a better position to secure funds for the Health and Pollution Fund, which will be used to support the cleanup of sites listed in the inventory.  This is a crucial step towards eliminating legacy pollution in the developing world.  We will continue working with the Asian Development Bank on this and offer updates throughout the year.

For now, let's begin 2010 by remembering Haiti in their time of need.  One organization to consider is Partners in Health. Together we can make a difference.

-- Richard Fuller, President, Blacksmith Institute


In This Issue 


Lead Cleanup Continues In Senegal

Senegal Blacksmith Institute Program Director Meredith Block and Technical Advisory Board member Dr. Ian von Lindern were in Senegal in late December to continue the cleanup of lead contamination in Dakar.  In 2008, 18 children died of lead poisoning there.

Working closely with community leaders and local officials, Blacksmith experts removed around 2000 cubic meters of highly contaminated soil last year.  On this return trip, work began on the second phase of the project to remove the remaining estimated 4000 cubic meters of lesser- contaminated materials. 

Dr. von Lindern and his team from TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering also took new soil samples from homes and community areas previously cleaned to measure the program's effectiveness.

Lead pollution in this area is caused by the improper recycling of car batteries, a problem that can be found in almost every city in the developing world.

Photo: Dr. von Lindern and local coordinator Assane Diop in the lead-polluted community of Thiayore-Sur-Mer in Senegal.


Mercury:  The Burning Issue (Video from Indonesia)

 Blacksmith recently brought cameras to the remote gold mines of Kalimantan, Indonesia, to talk to miners about their use of toxic mercury to extract gold. An estimated 1000 tons of mercury - 30% of the world's mercury emissions - are released as a result of artisanal gold mining.

The video documents the process -- we see miners crushing the ore, mixing it with mercury, and then burning the mercury off with a propane torch to recover the gold or adding cyanide to release the mercury. It also documents a solution.

Blacksmith has been working with a local NGO to get simple, low-cost mercury-capturing devices known as retorts into the hands of miners, who include many women and children. The effect has been a dramatic reduction in the amount of toxic mercury escaping into the atmosphere, and a decrease in mercury poisoning among miners and their families. Read more in the Pollution Blog.

Watch "Mercury:  The Burning Issue" Part 1 and Part 2.


A Champion For Children Dr. Philip Landrigan

When Dr. Philip J. Landrigan was asked what he thought was the most important thing people can do to save the planet, his answer was "protect children from toxic environments." 

Pollutants, especially lead and pesticides, have been the focus of Dr. Landrigan's world-renowned work in children's health over the past 30 years, beginning in the 1970s when he was a field epidemiologist, a medical detective, for the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the Centers for Disease Control.

His sleuthing led him to make the link between lead from a smelter in El Paso, Texas, and loss of I.Q. in the children who lived nearby.  He was also one of the first to correlate childhood lead exposure to declines in lifetime economic productivity and loss of earning potential.

To illustrate, Dr. Landrigan points to what he considers his greatest success -- getting lead out of gasoline in the U.S. and other countries. 

"In U.S., this resulted not only in a 90% reduction in children's blood lead levels and a 95% decrease in pediatric lead poisoning," notes Dr. Landrigan, "but also a 6 point increase in mean I.Q. of American children and a net annual benefit to the U.S. economy of about $200 billion, primarily the consequence of increased economic productivity resulting from increased intelligence."

A Professor of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Landrigan is now working with Blacksmith to help children in poor countries with developing economies.

"I saw that Blacksmith's mission to clean up the world's worst polluted places complemented my own life's work," says Dr. Landrigan, who joined Blacksmith's board of directors two years ago and is also a member of Blacksmith's Technical Advisory Board. "And their focus is also on children, which is key because children are more biologically vulnerable to pollutants. They play in the dirt and are constantly putting their fingers in their mouths."

In addition to providing medical and scientific expertise, Dr. Landrigan and his team at Mount Sinai are working with Blacksmith to estimate the global burden of disease in children that is caused by environmental pollution and also to calculate the economic costs associated with those disease.

Dr. Landrigan hopes his data and studies will influence policy-makers and prompt faster cleanup work in the developing world. But even in the U.S., notes Dr. Landrigan, legislation and change can take years after scientific and medical studies are published to take effect.

"You have to do your work, trust the data and be patient, but when opportunity arises to present data to policy-makers, you must seize that moment and put forth your science.  That is the way to make an impact."