The Toxic Site Identification Program (TSIP) endeavors to identify and screen contaminated sites in low- and middle-income countries with potential human health impact. The TSIP is not intended to be a comprehensive inventory of such sites, but rather an effort to begin to understand the scope of the problem.
As part of the TSIP, more than 1,500 sites have been screened in 47 countries. An additional 1,000 sites have been identified for future screening. The actual number of contaminated sites in low- and middle-income countries with potential human health impact is clearly much greater. By comparison, there are an estimated 90,000 contaminated sites in the United States alone. No good estimates currently exist on the potential number of sites in low- and middle-countries, but the total is likely to exceed the current number of sites identified by the TSIP by at least an order of magnitude.
Blacksmith is the leading organization working to clean up lead pollution caused by the improper recycling of used car batteries. This is one of the worst pollution problems in the developing world, one that is growing with consumer demand for cars. Lead poisons over 12 million people, mainly women and children. It is the most common environmental disease among children living in developing countries.
UNIDO (The United Nations Industrial Development Organization) estimates that artisanal gold mining results in the release of an estimated 1,000 tons of toxic mercury per year, which constitutes about 30 percent of the world's mercury emissions. At least a quarter of the world's total gold supply comes from artisanal gold mining.
Some 15 million gold miners, including 4.5 million women and 600,000 children, are poisoned by direct contact with toxic mercury. In addition, mercury rises and travels, dropping into rivers, oceans and seas, contaminating seafood far and wide.
About Blacksmith's Programs
Blacksmith works in highly polluted locations in the developing world with the intent of mitigating human health risks from pollution. Solutions to pollution problems vary according to each site and include factors such as:
- type of pollution (air, water, groundwater, soil, etc.)
- toxins involved (particularly their potency and longevity)
- extent of the contamination
- whether it is active or "legacy" (abandoned or ownerless sites)
- variety of local geographical and political factors
With the long-term aim of banishing this problem throughout the globe, Blacksmith supports local action to deal with highly polluted places. In doing this, we have adopted a range of solutions that fit both with the requirements of each class of sites and with Blacksmith's own limited resources.
In general, our solutions follow one of the following paths:
- Small scale clean-ups. Contamination is legacy, and clean-up is not too expensive (less than $100,000). Blacksmith will provide technical support and clean-up funds, usually requiring a match in funding from the local community. Projects are usually completed within 12 months. Often help to catalyze further action.
- Large-scale clean-ups. Contamination is legacy, but scale and costs are very high. Blacksmith will support and fund a local coalition or stakeholder group to survey the issue and develop an action plan for remediation. The coalition is led by a local champion, and includes representatives from agencies that might provide long term funding, including the national government or international agencies such as the World Bank or Asian Development Bank. Often, these coalitions are the first real attempt to initiate remediation and they work to achieve the needed multi-million dollar project funding from other agencies.
- Active sites. These are locations where the pollution is on-going, usually from specific industrial or mining activities. Blacksmith will fund a health impact analysis, in conjunction with all parties (including the owner, if possible). This review is then presented to the owner, with the intent of persuasion to reduce pollutants accordingly. Other more aggressive avenues are pursued only after this cooperative approach has been fully explored.
- Complex ("Multi-Modal") sites. These are areas that have mixes of legacy and active pollution, often with many different sources. Blacksmith will fund a coalition of all stakeholders, led by a local champion, to design an overall strategy and specific action plans for solution. Again, national or international players are a part of the necessary mix , as they can bring large-scale funding to the table.
Brief summaries of successes in following this strategy can be found here.