Did you see Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times on the link between autism (and other diseases like cancers) and environmental toxins? Kristof points to concern about American’s using plastic containers to microwave food, and using products with toxic phthalates like fragrances, cosmetics and shampoos. All this makes sense. But how about the men, women and children half a world away who are regularly exposed to levels of toxins far beyond what’s permissible in the U.S.?
The problem is the same. Its just the scale that’s wildly different. Pregnant women and children in the developing world in many places are exposed to levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, solvents and other pollutants that cause death and disease that are hundreds, and sometimes thousands of times above safe levels. They need help removing the toxins that contaminate their communities.
Karti (Karti Sandilya – the former Director General of the Asian Development Bank) and I have just come back from Europe (Sweden, Switzerland and the UK) where we met with governments, WHO, and the United Nations Environment Programme. We have strong partners for our planned Health and Pollution Fund, getting closer to finding global solutions to these problems.
By the way, Kristof’s article refers to the work of Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a great Blacksmith friend and one of the leading voices in children’s health. When we profiled Dr. Landrigan in our January newsletter, we asked him what he thought was the most important thing people could do to save the planet. His answer was “protect children from toxic environments.” What a great guy.