Press Kit/Fact Sheet

PURE EARTH

Solving Pollution Problems, Saving Lives

 

Press Contact: Magdalene Sim, mag@blacksmithinstitute.org

About Pure Earth * Resources * Access to Pollution Experts   * Programs/Projects * In-Country Representation * Pure Earth Focus * Cost Effectiveness * Filling a Crucial Gap * Facts about Pollution * Pollution ReportsMission Statement * Strategy * Local Empowerment and Support * Staff and Advisors * Partners

 

About Pure Earth

Pure Earth, formerly known as the Blacksmith Institute, is an international non-profit organization dedicated to solving pollution problems in low- and middle-income countries, where human health is at risk.

Pure Earth is a leader in global pollution cleanup. Since its inception in 1999, Pure Earth has completed more than 75 environmental remediation projects in 20 countries, improving the lives of millions of people, especially children, who are most at risk from the threat of toxic pollution.

Based in New York, Pure Earth works cooperatively around the world in partnerships that include governments, the international community, NGOs and local agencies, to design and implement innovative, low-cost solutions to save lives.

In 2008, Pure Earth began efforts to create a global alliance to support the cleanup and elimination of legacy pollution in the developing world. The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) was formed in 2011 with Pure Earth serving as Secretariat.  The GAHP is the first effort of its kind dedicated to addressing the threat of toxic pollution on a global scale.

Pure Earth  is known for:

  • Annual pollution reports 
  • Creation of the Blacksmith Index (used around the world to rate levels of health risk from pollution). The Blacksmith Index was developed by Pure Earth’s technical experts to prioritize sites for remediation based on their risk to human health. It uses the population affected, the characteristics of the pollutant, and the severity of the pathway to provide a 1 through 6 ranking of every site assessed.
  • The pollution database, the only resource of its kind, which currently documents the world’s worst polluted sites.Pure Earth is currently expanding this database with the Toxic Sites Identification Program, a worldwide effort to assess and document some 3,000 polluted sites in over 60 countries.
  • In 2011, Pure Earth was awarded the UN-backed Green Star Award for its work in environmental emergencies, specifically the lead poisoning outbreak in Nigeria.
  • Pure Earth is accredited with observer status by The United Nations Environmental Programme’s Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, giving Pure Earth an entry point into policy dialogue with UNEP.

Resources

Access to Pollution Experts

Interviews and Field Access to Pure Earth projects around the world may be available on request. Please contact us to speak with Pure Earth President Richard Fuller and other experts, including members of our Technical Advisory Board, for topics including:

  • Global pollution problems and solutions
  • the world’s worst polluted places
  • the world’s worst pollution problems
  • public health issues/pollution and disease
  • children and pollution/health effects of pollution
  • lead pollution (eg: from used-lead acid battery recycling)
  • mercury pollution (eg: from artisanal gold mining)
  • Heavy-metals pollution (eg: chromium pollution from tanneries)
  • e-waste and industrial waste
  • legacy pollution
  • Pure Earth projects around the world

Projects/Major Initiatives

Since 1999, Pure Earth has completed more than 75 environmental remediation projects in 20 countries, improving the lives of millions of people, especially children, who are most at risk from the threat of toxic pollution.

See our list of completed and in-progress projects. Major Initiatives include:

The 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.

Pure Earth 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 low-and middle-income countries, 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 the developing world. Projects are ongoing in Senegal, Dominican Republic, Philippines, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala and India.

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.

Pure Earth is working with UNIDO’s Global Mercury Project in Senegal, Indonesia, Mozambique, and Cambodia.

In-Country Representation

Countries include Cambodia, China, the Dominican Republic, Guinea, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Tanzania, Thailand, and Zambia. Headquarters:  New York City, London.

Pure Earth Focus

  • Pure Earth focuses on pollution that poses a threat to human health, working in highly polluted places where children, in particular, are most at risk.
  • Pure Earth’s focus is on implementing solutions.  Pure Earth does not function as a watchdog. Co-operation with local champions and stakeholders is key.

Cost-Effectiveness

  • Pure Earth’s method of remediating highly polluted sites — sometimes using worms, molasses and other low-cost solutions — is one of the most cost effective ways to improve life expectancy in the developing world. Pure Earth projects range in cost between $1 and $50 per year of life gained.
  • The cost to save a human life through the removal of hazardous pollution on Pure Earth projects can be as low as $42. (* study reviewed by the centers for children’s health and environment at Johns Hopkins University, Hunter College and the Mt. Sinai School of Public Health.)

Filling a Crucial Gap

  • Pure Earth is the leading organization active in toxics cleanup on a global scale.
  • Most current international programs regulate the production and use of select toxins and the trans-boundary movement of waste rather than the mitigation or remediation of existing pollution. It is a global problem that is just emerging on the international radar screen.

Facts About Pollution

Pure Earth’s Annual World’s Worst Polluted Places/Pollution Problems Reports

Since 2006, Pure Earth’s yearly reports have been instrumental in increasing public understanding of the health impacts posed by toxic pollution, and in some cases, have compelled cleanup work at pollution hotspots. Pure Earth reports have been issued jointly with Green Cross Switzerland since 2007. All reports are available online at www.worstpolluted.org.

2006: The Ten Most Polluted Places
2007: Top Ten Most Polluted Places
2008: The World’s Worst Pollution Problems
2009: 12 Cases of Cleanup and Success
2010: Top Six Toxic Threats
2011: The World’s Top Ten Toxic Pollution Problems
2012:The Top Ten Sources of Pollution By Global Burden of Disease

How Pure Earth Works

Mission Statement

Pure Earth’s mission is to develop and implement solutions for pollution-related problems in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in locations where there is a direct effect on human health.

Pure Earth’s Strategy

Pure Earth focuses on locations throughout the developing world where human health is most affected by pollution. Our programs involve a multi-step process of:

1) Identifying polluted places in the developing world, with nominations received from members of the international community and through the internet; and assessed and compiled in our database through our Toxic Sites Identification Program.

2) Assessing the health risks at those locations by:

  • Reviewing nominations with a Technical Advisory Board of leading international specialists on a rolling monthly basis.
  • Visiting candidate sites with likely high health risk implication.
  • Conducting an Initial Site Assessment: a triage protocol that validates likely health implications, and enables the design of an intervention.

3) Designing and implementing a remediation strategy tailored to the specifics of the site in question, using local champions to implement the project in a cooperative fashion.

Local Empowerment

We believe that problems are only solved when there is someone locally to guide the work and champion the solution. That person might be a passionate government official, the leader of a community-based organization, a local council member, or a local resident. This approach capitalizes on local knowledge and networks, enables practical responses within communities, and is inclusive of all site stakeholders from community leaders and local governments, to industry, national and international actors.

Support

Pure Earth supports its local partners with more than just grants so that solutions can be implemented in the most cost effective and direct manner.Pure Earth provides:

  • Technical Research: We bring the necessary resources to research a pollution problem and its proposed solutions thoroughly. We partner with scientific and technical groups in the U.S. (and also in Europe) that have demonstrated expertise in areas relevant to pollution remediation.
  • Strategic Assistance: We provide help with project planning and implementation planning, using our experience in similar projects to enable local champions to describe a credible methodology for site remediation, and move forward with it.
  • Networking Capabilities: We develop collaborative networking opportunities for our partners, linking them to the most appropriate resources to meet their needs, including multilateral organizations such as the World Bank.
  • Financial Support: Through the generosity of our personal and institutional funders, we provide seed money, and potentially continuing support to projects that have demonstrated clear successes in pollution remediation.

Staff and Key Advisors

Partners and Supporters