Lead Cleanup in Jakarta, Indonesia

Jakarta – we are so fortunate to have Budi Susilorini working for us there.  She’s our eyes, ears and hands on the ground for our cleanup work in Indonesia.  We’re about to kick off a project targeting lead poisoning on the outskirts of the city, where battery recyclers are contaminating soil and kids.  In our 2008 World’s Worst Polluted Places report, we identified this as one of the worst pollution problems in the world — we see it in almost every city in the developing world – small operators who recycle used car batteries using improper and unsafe methods.

Sometimes, it’s literally a mom and pop operation, with parents breaking up car batteries by hand in their backyards and smelting them in their kitchens, often with their kids nearby.  What happens is that the toxic lead from the batteries gets into everything – the ground, air, water, clothes, food, cups and plates… everything.  Kids playing barefoot are poisoned.  The food they eat is cooked with contaminated water and thus tainted. Even if they don’t touch anything, they still get poisoned by simply breathing in lead dust.   There’s no escape.

Last year, we went to Senegal to do cleanup after 18 children died suddenly of lead poisoning.  We are trying to avoid just this type of tragedy in Indonesia.  Instead, we are trying to come up with another success story like we have in Haina, in the Dominican Republic.

Budi estimates that there are about 57 informal smelting centers in Jarkarta that affect approximately 2 million people. About half the affected population is under 18 – so approx 1 million kids would be damaged by the lead threat there.  These kind of numbers are simply obscene…..

For those of you interested in learning more about lead pollution, here are some links:

International Atomic Energy Agency’s September Bulletin – “Toxic Playpen” about the impact of lead poisoning in Jamaica; Lead and Maternal Child Health summary; Blacksmith’s latest newsletter.

— Richard

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