Solving Pollution Problems, Saving Lives


Nov/Dec 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.



 2011 REPORT


The World's Worst Toxic Pollution Problems Report 2011

Download Blacksmith's 2011 Pollution Report:  World's Worst Pollution Problems




Nominate a Polluted Site


New Report Lists Top Ten World's Worst Toxic Pollution Problems With A Big Surprise  

Perhaps the most surprising finding of the 2011 World's Worst Toxic Pollution Problems report released this month by Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland is that contrary to popular belief, large multinational corporations are not the worst pollution problems. Instead, unregulated small-scale operations like artisanal mining and backyard metal recycling have the greatest impact globally in terms of pollution and pubic health.

[The Pollution Blog: "Surprise - Doe Run, Corporations NOT the Worst Pollution Problems"]


The Rising Cost of Gold

Richard Fuller

Perhaps a result of the rising price of gold, artisanal gold mining tops this year's list of worst toxic pollution problems. 

About 3.5 million people, including many child miners, are at risk from mercury poisoning. At least a quarter of the world's gold comes from artisanal gold mining, which releases an estimated 1,000 tons of mercury into the atmosphere each year. 

[Watch Richard Fuller, Blacksmith's President on Businesss News Network talking about the impact of artisanal gold mining]

"Although corporations are not the biggest pollution problems, ultimately it is the demand for gold and other commodities and consumer goods driven by the economies of high income countries that fuel small scale operations and increase the severity of pollution problems in low income countries," says Bret Ericson, Project Manager for Blacksmith's Global Inventory Project.


The World's Worst Toxic Pollution Problems Report 2011Over a Decade of Life Lost

The report also calculates, for the first time, that toxic pollution shortens the productive lifespan of a person by an average of 12.7 years for millions living with the worst pollution problems.

This measurement, Disability-Adjusted Life Year or DALY, represents the sum of life years lost and years lived with disability.

Because much of the current research in environmental health focuses only on deaths, many pollution victims are left uncounted by basic mortality statistics. By factoring in disability, the DALY figures provide a clearer picture of the health impacts of toxic pollution.


Data From Thousands of Hotspots

This latest report is based on data collected over the past three years from thousands of hotspots assessed for Blacksmith's global inventory of polluted sites. 

Research on this scale has not been done before. The crucial information collected will be used to prioritize cleanup to target communities with the most at-risk populations. 


The Top TenScientific America and World's Worst Polluted

The 2011 report lists the top ten world's worst toxic pollution problems and sources ranked according to the size of the population at risk.

Watch a slideshow of the Top Ten at: Scientific American or Huffington Post


International Attention

The report's release generated interest around the world with reports in Chinese, German and other publications.  Read a roundup of the news coverage in the IPS wire and other media here.


The Pollution Reports

The 2011 report is the latest in a series of annual reports on the state of pollution in the world. In the past, these reports have raised awareness about the global scope of toxic pollution, and in some cases, have compelled cleanup work at polluted hotspots.

See the current top ten list and all previous reports at

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