In This Issue:
Inaugural Issue of Blacksmith Institute Journal of Health and Pollution
In early 2011, Blacksmith Institute will publish the first issue of a semiannual, on-line, open-access publication of peer-reviewed research and news. “The Blacksmith Institute Journal of Health and Pollution” (JH&P) aims to stimulate a discussion of toxic pollution and its impact on human health in low- and middle-income countries.
Articles being considered for the first edition include risk assessments and case studies from Africa and Asia, as well as commentaries and editorials. Theme-oriented future issues may highlight such issues as Morbidity and Mortality from Toxic Pollution in Under-Five-Year-Olds (mid 2011) and the Impact of Toxic Pollution on Economic Development (early 2012).
Mexican Press Conference Preview
News about a dangerous home-based Mexican industry will be announced January 25 in Mexico City when Blacksmith Institute and its partner, the artisanal collective Fondo Nacional para el Fomento de las Artesanias (FONART), hold a joint press conference.
Since early 2009, Blacksmith and FONART have been working to diminish lead poisoning in the country’s ceramics communities. Lead-based glazes have been used by Mexican artisans since the 16th century when they were introduced by the Spanish. And beginning in the 1970s, industrial-produced lead oxide cut the price of glazes, thereby expanding their use. Coupled with male migration to the United States, more economically marginalized Mexican women have engaged in this dangerous home-based industry.
An estimated 50,000 people come in contact with dangerous amounts of lead during the creation of glazed pottery, typically testing three-to-five times higher than the international standard. Over a lifetime, this can mean an IQ drop of 10 to 20 points.
Further, about 30 percent of Mexico’s urban population use glazed ceramics for cooking and food storage. And because of the popularity in the national diet of acidic foods like chili peppers, tomatoes, and lemons, the lead contained in glazes is more likely to pass into the human body. Consequent blood-lead concentrations are 30 to 40 percent higher in families using glazed ceramics.
But where the Blacksmith program--community education, blood monitoring, high temperature kiln construction, and remediation of existing lead--has been implemented, blood-lead levels have dropped by half in three months.
To All Blacksmith Supporters--Thank You for Your Holiday Gifts!
Blacksmith President Richard Fuller expressed “heartfelt thanks” to all donors “who celebrated the 2010 holiday season with generous support for our mission.” He was particularly touched by a $2,000 check from the California consulting firm CUBIZM, who found the Blacksmith Institute on the “1% for the Planet” website.
CUBIZM was founded in 2006 by partners Bruce Yandell and Katherine Conrad, respectively president and vice president of the two-person operation in San Carlos, California. A creative research film, they help companies improve business in a wide range of markets. Just a year after start-up, CUBIZM joined 1% for the Planet, a growing global movement of nearly 1,350 companies that donate one percent of their sales to a network of 2,344 environmental organizations worldwide—including Blacksmith Institute.
When traveling internationally, 32-year-old Katherine was “saddened and concerned about the water and pollution problems” she encountered. “I’m very involved in environmental issues…a personal passion,” she continued, “but I don’t get to work on these things in our industry. So we have to help out and give back another way.”
They researched natural resource protection and sustainability, among other categories, on the 1% website; selected a couple of organizations for possible support; then checked out their websites and rating on Charity Navigator before making a decision. “We wanted to make sure our contribution was going for the greater good…something positive…will really be used for programs, not administration and salaries.”
Along with its life-saving poison pollution removal mission, Blacksmith Institute’s 4-star Charity Navigator rating was persuasive. Consequently, a check was enclosed in their holiday card along with season’s greetings and best wishes for the new year.
The largest independent evaluator of the financial health of philanthropic organizations, Charity Navigator awarded Blacksmith their highest possible rating for sound fiscal management, responsible daily operations, and program maintenance over time.
Bloomberg Reports on Nigerian Lead Poisoning and Blacksmith's Cleanup Program
Gold Rush in Nigeria Kills Children as Miners Belatedly Discover Lead Dust
Gold brought death to Umoru Musa’s nine-family compound in Sunke, a mud-brick village in northern Nigeria.
Five of the 25 children, including Musa’s 1-year-old daughter Nafisa, lost their lives in May after villagers ground ore from nearby hills they didn’t know were also loaded with lead. Rising prices for gold promised a windfall. Instead, they helped unleash the deadliest lead-poisoning crisis in modern medical history.
As the adults pulverized rocks with their grain grinder, they spewed lead dust across the ground where their children played and poultry grazed. They spread more of the material, lethal to children in high doses, around the communal well where they washed the ore to sift out the gold.
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