Mothers In Some Of The World’s Worst Polluted Places (Photos)

* Honor Your Mom, Help a Mom. This Mother’s Day, let’s do something to help all these mothers on the frontlines of the pollution fight. 

By making a gift today in honor of your mother, or buying her a gift from one of the jewelers participating in Pure Earth’s Buy and Give Program, you can help mothers around the world who are fighting toxic pollution endangering their families.


Mother and child in Kabwe, Zambia

Mother and child in Kabwe, Zambia

We see them  all the time when we work in polluted hotspots where, really, no one should be living.

Mother and child near living near the contaminated Kharkai river in eastern India

Mother and child living near the contaminated Kharkai river in eastern India

We see them going about their daily, often back-breaking work, many times with children in tow.

Residents of Hazaribagh, the tanning district in Dacha, make their way over a shaky bamboo bridge that spans a effluent canal carrying factory wast toward the Buriganga River. April 21st marks the third anniversary of the implosion of Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza garment factory complex,a tragedy that killed 1,129 and injured 2500 more young people sewing clothes for brands like Benetton, the Children’s Place and Wal-Mart. Rana Plaza illustrated how Bangladesh’s cheap prices came along with the country’s weak institutions, politically connected factory owners and a culture of impunity. But not every example of this impunity plays as well on TV. In 2012, Human Rights Watch’s “Toxic Tanneries,” revealed that none of the more than 250 leather tanneries in Old Dhaka’s Hazaribagh neighborhood treated the blue chromium-laced liquid that they used to transform rigid animal skins to into our supple leather. Even by the lax environmental standards of neighboring India, Hazaribagh is a disaster. In India, leather tanneries consistently flout pollution norms; in Bangladesh, they don’t even bother to try. In 2013, the same year as Rana Plaza, Hazaribagh made Pure Earth’s Worst Polluted List. In Hazaribagh, pollution is inescapable. Brown and grey liquid waste flows through a series of channels that criss-cross the neighborhood, carrying tannery waste into local creek with viscous water the color of liquid cement, choked with refuse, that oozes through the center of the neighborhood. One one side of the creek, stray dogs lounge on three foot piles of leather scraps. On the other side, you can glimpse the remnants of a glue factory that cook down various animal parts to make glue. The smell, equal parts chemicals, slaughterhouse and desperation, assaults you. This caustic blue-grey waste flows directly into the Buriganga River, where chromium and lead exceed permissible levels by 105 and 80 times, respectively. An estimated 180, 000 people in the area now suf

Residents of Hazaribagh, the tanning district in Dacha, make their way over a shaky bamboo bridge that spans a effluent canal carrying factory waste toward the Buriganga River. Photo: Larry C. Price.

These women are often too busy taking care of daily necessities to do anything else, let alone worry about their contaminated communities.

A family in Senegal living near a site suspected of being contaminated by lead and e-waste processing.

A family in Senegal living near a site suspected of being contaminated by lead and e-waste processing.

But these women are often the key to change once they realize their children are being poisoned.  They are the ones who are usually the most eager to learn what they can do to keep their families safe.

In Mongolia, a miner, Mrs. Mungun, trained to go mercury-free to protect her children.

Mrs Mungun proudly shows off the wardrobe she was able to buy for her children with her earnings as a mercury-free gold miner

Mrs Mungun proudly shows off the wardrobe she was able to buy for her children with her earnings as a mercury-free gold miner in Mongolia.

In Mexico, Rosario, an artisanal potter, switched to using lead-free glazes in her workshop.

Rosario in her workshop in Mexico.

Rosario in her workshop in Mexico.

In Senegal, women are teaching other mothers about the dangers of lead poisoning from the improper recycling of car batteries, so that they will learn to avoid tragedies that plagued mothers like Seynabou.

Seynabou and ladies in her community in Senegal

Seynabou and ladies in her community in Senegal

So to all these mothers on the frontlines of the pollution fight, THANK YOU.

(scroll below for more photos)

Did You Know…

… women and children in low- and middle-income countries are the most vulnerable victims of toxic pollution? 

WHO reports that every year, environmental risks take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years.

In many communities, women are more at risk because they may be economically isolated, excluded from cooperatives or ownership positions or paid through back channels to work in their homes or backyards rather than in monitored, safer industrial environments.

And if women are affected, so are their families. Exposures to dangerous chemicals have a multigenerational impact on women, families and entire communities.

Learn why women hold the key to to fighting pollution.

Snapshots Of Mothers In Some Of The World’s Worst Polluted Places

Taking a break from scavenging at a dumpsite in India

Taking a break from scavenging at a dumpsite in India

Mother sleeping with her child in the middle of Ghana's Agbogbloshie market, where most of the world's e-waste ends up.

Mother sleeping with her child in the middle of Ghana’s Agbogbloshie market, near a large e-waste processing site.

A woman extracting gold from ore in Senegal, with children and food nearby. There are over 4.5 million women and some 600,000 children who are involved in artisanal gold mining around the world, and are exposed to direct contact with toxic mercury used in the process.

A woman extracting gold from ore in Senegal, with children and food nearby. There are over 4.5 million women and some 600,000 children who are involved in artisanal gold mining around the world, and are exposed to direct contact with toxic mercury used in the process.

In the Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic near a lead contaminated site.

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This pregnant mother in Indonesia is worried her fetus is exposed to toxic lead

Mother and child at a school in Kyrgyzstan to watch an educational play teaching about the dangers of lead.

Mother and child at a school in Kyrgyzstan to watch an educational play presented by Pure Earth about the dangers of lead.

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