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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Change and Hope Comes To Agbogbloshie: Africa’s Largest E-waste Dump Begins Transformation to Model Recycling Center

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

New Analysis Points To Pollution As The Largest Cause of Death in Low- and Middle-Income Countries; Global Alliance Urges Higher Priority For Comprehensive Approach to Pollution in SDGs.

 

June 13, 2014, New York, NY–The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) has released a new analysis of data that points to pollution as the largest factor in disease and death in the developing world, killing more than 8.4 million people each year. But pollution has a low priority in the current draft of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the U.N.’s new plan for development assistance for the next 15 years.

The analysis, based on new data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and others, determine that 7.4 million deaths were due to pollution sources from air, water, sanitation and hygiene. WHO figures released in May 2014 count deaths from outdoor and indoor air pollution at 6.58 million; water contamination, lack of sanitation and hygiene at 842,000.

The analysis by GAHP attributes an additional one million deaths to toxic chemical and industrial wastes from large and small producers in formal and informal sectors of economies in poor countries.

The total number of deaths, 8.4 million, is largest death factor in the world. In fact, pollution causes almost three times more deaths than malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined(1.5 million deaths from HIV; 600,000 from malaria; and 900,000 from tuberculosis).

GAHP members worldwide have come together to urge the U.N. to spotlight pollution in the SDGs (see the growing list of supporters). A position paper and a draft of GAHP’s proposed revised SDG text have been created. These will be presented to the Open Working Group of the SDGs, meeting in New York City next week.

Spotlighting the Largest “Invisible” Killer in the Developing World

“There is a reason why pollution is sometimes called the invisible killer,” says Richard Fuller, President of Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute. “While it is the single largest risk factor, unfortunately, its impact is difficult to track because health statistics measure disease, not pollution.”

Fuller adds, “Pollution causes diseases like cancers, lung infections, and heart disease amongst others. Hospitals don’t measure what caused those diseases. But contaminated water, soil and air result in millions of additional diseases and deaths. These are deaths we can avoid, if we prioritize addressing pollution.”

Fernando Lugris, Ambassador and Deputy Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Uruguay adds, “The problem is that the current SDGs include mention only of air pollution in the health goal and ignore other causes like chemicals and waste. Since the SDGs will determine what the world pays attention to and funds over the next fifteen years, the importance of having all forms of pollution addressed is enormous.  The SDGs set the agenda. We need to make sure pollution is adequately covered.”

John Pwamang of the Ghana Environment Protection Agency notes, “We have identified over 200 places with contaminated air, soil or water that are putting at risk some 6 million people. These include places with lead poisoning from recycling used lead-acid or car batteries, and e-waste dismantling areas, where cables are burnt in the open air and the toxic smoke poisons whole neighborhoods. Plus we have poor sanitation in our villages, and air pollution from vehicle exhausts in our cities.”

For Vast Majority of Deaths in Poor Countries, Solutions are Available

It is no surprise that the overwhelming majority of deaths from pollution are in low and middle-countries, where the world’s worst polluted places are located.  The Poisoned Poor, like Seynabou Mbengue who lost five of her children to pollution, are unable to move to less polluted communities or escape from the toxic jobs that sustain them economically.

In the U.S., like other western countries, life-threatening pollution is mostly a thing of the past.  The U.S. has well-developed legislative and regulatory systems, and technical expertise to deal with the problem.

Now, the task is to transfer technical know-how from the wealthy countries to those in need; poorer countries with millions of deaths and diseases that can and should be avoided. GAHP was created to undertake this exact mandate.

A comprehensive approach to all forms of pollution is critical.  Many communities in poor countries are assaulted simultaneously with different combinations of these harmful pollutants, whether as airborne particles, industrial wastes discharged into rivers used for drinking and bathing, pesticides or herbicides on crops absorbed into food and seeping into ground water, to name just a few. Not only do these combined substances cause disability and disease today, but the neurotoxic and transgenerational threats they pose to children under age 5, babies in-utero and the future reproductive health of women cries out for priority status in the SDGs.

About the GAHP

The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) is a collaborative body of bilateral, multilateral, and international agencies, country governments, academia and civil society that assists low-and middle-income countries to reduce the human health impacts of chemicals, waste and toxic pollution. GAHP’s members include the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, European Commission, GIZ, the Ministries of Environment of Mexico, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, Philippines, Senegal and Uruguay, UNIDO, UNEP and UNDP, among others. Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute serves as Secretariat for the GAHP.

For more information visit www.gahp.net, or email info@gahp.net.

Contact:

Magdalene Sim, mag@blacksmithinstitute.org

Angela Bernhardt, angela@pureearth.org

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Media Alert

June 9, 2014 – New York, NY

GAHP, Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, to release new analysis showing combined sources of pollution are the top cause of death in the developing world, killing more than 10 million per year, yet the draft of the new Sustainable Development Goals on Health downplays the issue.

Teleconference: Friday, June 13, 2014, 11:00 AM (New York – EDT)

U.S. toll free 1-877-366-0711, Canada toll free 1-866-627-1651, International +1 302-709-8446

Register in advance to receive the conference passcode and the new analysis, email mag@blacksmithinstitute.org by EOD 6/12.

WHAT:

GAHP member organizations will present a position paper with new analysis to the Open Working Group on Health for the SDGs urging a higher priority for a comprehensive approach to pollution. GAHP representatives will be on the conference call to review the data and position paper with members of the press.

WHO: Speakers will be

  • Richard Fuller, President of Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute
  • Karti Sandilya, GAHP secretariat, and former DG of Asian Development Bank
  • Dr. Jack Caravanos, Associate Professor, CUNY Hunter College, School of Public Health; Technical Advisor, GAHP.
  • Jacob Duer, United Nations Environment Program
  • John Pwamang, Ghana Environmental Protection Agency, Government of Ghana
  • Fernando Lugris, Ambassador and Deputy Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Uruguay

WHY:

A widening plague of industrial, agricultural, chemical pollution and poor sanitation in the developing countries has become the largest cause of global deaths each year- killing more than 10 million people – but world leaders are downplaying the combined effects and focusing on only air pollution as the main area of concern in health related goal of the new post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals currently under development.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on March 25 released a report noting that seven million people die of indoor and outdoor air pollution every year. GAHP, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (http://www.gahp.net/new/spotlight-pollution/) analyzed additional data from the WHO and the Toxic Sites Identification Program to determine death by various pollutant pathways. This analysis showed that at least three million more die from sanitation, toxic contaminants in water, soil, or airborne exposure to lead, mercury, chromium and many other industrial and agricultural chemicals.

More specifically, in 2012, deaths from outdoor air pollution caused 3.7 million deaths; indoor air, primarily from cookstoves, killed 4.3 million; soil and water contamination killed 1 million; poor or non-existent sanitation killed 1.9 million.  This total from all these pollution sources was 10.9 million dead in 2012.

By comparison, there were 1.5 million deaths from HIV; 600,000 from malaria; and 900,000 from tuberculosis. It is an extraordinary fact that pollution kills three times more people than HIV, malaria and TB combined. Yet, it receives a fraction of the attention and funding given to those three.

Part of the reason is that diseases like HIV, malaria and TB are visible and more easily measured, while pollution is a “risk factor”, causing other diseases, and its impact is much more difficult to track. Pollution causes increases in diseases, such as cancer, and reduces life expectancy, but statistics collected from medical agencies around the world do not record it as the cause of death. Instead, analyses must be done based on variations in death rates as pollutants increase. Reducing pollution will reduce the amount of cancer and other diseases in the world’s poorest communities.

A comprehensive approach to all forms of pollution is critical as pollution damages health all over the world, killing thousands daily, especially children. Many communities in poor countries are assaulted simultaneously with different combinations of these harmful pollutants, whether as airborne particles, industrial wastes discharged into rivers used for drinking and bathing, pesticides or herbicides on crops absorbed into food and seeping into ground water, to name just a few. Not only do these combined substances cause disability and disease today, but the neurotoxic and transgenerational threats they pose to children under age 5, babies in-utero and the future reproductive health of women cries out for priority status in the SDGs.

CONTACTS:

If you have any questions or have difficulty accessing the teleconference, please call or email Blacksmith at 212-647-8330 and ask for Mag or Aditi.

Madgalene Sim – mag@blacksmithinstitute.org

Aditi Thapar – aditi@blacksmithinstitute.org

 

For Immediate Release – 4/28/14

“Slumdog Millionaire” Actor/Activist DEV PATEL Launches “Pure Earth” Campaign with Blacksmith Institute, Explains Urgent Need To Fight Toxic Pollution Threatening Poor Children 

Dev Patel

Dev Patel and Freida Pinto at the inaugural PURE EARTH benefit gala in NYC on April 26, 2014.

April 28, 2014, New York, NY – Actor/Activist Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Newsroom, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) has launched Pure  Earth, a new campaign with nonprofit partner Blacksmith Institute aimed at raising awareness of the threat toxic pollution poses to poor children living in some of the world’s worst polluted places. Patel unveiled the new effort at the Pure Earth inaugural benefit gala held at Gotham Hall in NYC on April 26, 2014. Pure Earth will expand on the work done by the Blacksmith Institute, which has been conducting environmental cleanups in poverty-stricken, toxic hot spots around the globe for the past 15 years.

The Pure Earth benefit gala honored Dev Patel and Sheldon Kasowitz, Managing Partner at Indus Capital Partners, and featured artworks for auction by Yoko Ono, Anne Hathaway, Susan Sarandon, Olivia Munn and the cast of Newsroom, Faith Ringgold and others.

According to Patel, filming in India as a teenager was an “eye-opening experience.

The actor, who just celebrated his birthday on April 23, called Pure Earth “the single greatest present. (Read Q&A with Dev Patel )

Patel added: “Even I wasn’t aware of how big the problem was until a couple of years ago when I went on a research trip for a film project to Bhopal India. I witnessed first-hand the appalling conditions the poor families had to face every day who live near the Union Carbide factory, which is now an abandoned toxic hot spot. I was deeply moved by the struggles of these people and began to understand how industrial pollution in the soil and water can lead to birth defects, widespread disease, high cancer rates, and low life expectancy. When Richard Fuller approached me to get involved with Blacksmith and their worldwide clean up, I jumped at the opportunity.”

“We are honored to be working with Dev Patel on this mission to improve the environment and human health in the poorest parts of the globe. Dev’s passion and commitment to the cause will help us raise awareness about this underreported global problem that affects over 200 million people, and can be especially deadly for children,” said Richard Fuller, President of Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute.

The recent report “The Poisoned Poor,” released by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) (Blacksmith serves as Secretariat for the GAHP), highlights the urgency of the issue. The report draws on a study of more than 3,000 toxic sites, funded by the World BankEuropean Commission and Asian Development Bank, that shows that as many as 200 million people may be affected. A detailed analysis of 373 contaminated sites in India, Indonesia and the Philippines calculated that the amount of disease caused by toxic exposures was similar to that of malaria or outdoor air pollution in those three countries (see one-page summary).

More on the issue:

Increased global prosperity need not result in an increase of the “poisoned poor”.

Pure Earth embraces the vision, promoted by the Gates Foundation and others, that by 2035, only a handful of countries will be defined as very poor. Increased prosperity carries great benefits and much hope. But, because Pure Earth/Blacksmith works on the community level, it is clear that as prosperity and consumption increases, so do the opportunities for risky, toxic work that poison the poorest, like Seynabou Mbengue, a woman in Senegal who lost five children because of her toxic job. 

Advocates for the “Poisoned Poor”

The Pure Earth campaign at Blacksmith will advocate for the “poisoned poor”. For over 15 years, Blacksmith Institute has been identifying and cleaning up toxic pollution in unknown or ignored communities around the globe.

What does this look like on the village level? — Children freely play in clean fields of pure earth, no longer laden with lead or arsenic; mothers cook a meal with safe water, free of methyl mercury; artisan potters return home after a days work tracking in the clay dust that no longer carries a deadly chemical threat.  These are the stories Pure Earth will share each year to inspire an increased commitment toward and investment in cleaning up toxic pollution.

“The good news is that toxic pollution is one global problem that has a proven solution,” says Fuller, “and with Dev Patel’s support, we are moving ever closer to a Pure Earth.”

Links:

Editors: Interviews/more photos on request.

Contact:

Q and A With Dev Patel:

Toxic Pollution, the Poisoned Poor, and a Pure Earth

Why is this issue important to you? Why did you choose to get involved?

First of all I believe that toxic pollution is an extremely underreported issue. Even I wasn’t aware of how big the problem was until a couple of years ago when I went on a research trip for a film project to Bhopal India. I witnessed first-hand the appalling conditions the poor families had to face every day who live near the Union Carbide factory, which is now an abandoned toxic hot spot. I was deeply moved by the struggles of these people and began to understand how industrial pollution in the soil and water can lead to birth defects, widespread disease, high cancer rates, and low life expectancy. When Richard Fuller approached me to get involved with Blacksmith and their worldwide clean up, I jumped at the opportunity.

Did your experience starring in SlumDog Millionaire motivate you to advocate for the “Poisoned Poor”?

At 17 years old, shooting in India was a very eye-opening experience. We shot in many slums in the city. Most of the families living in these slums are just trying to survive and don’t know the work they are doing is slowing killing them. It’s not as simple as going into these areas and shouting “Stop what you’re doing, it’s killing you”! In many cases they have no option but to continue, otherwise they won’t be able to feed their families, and they’ll die of starvation. The great strategy about Pure Earth is that they go in and educate these local communities and provide them with healthier alternatives. For instance, gold mining is a very big source of income in India. Richard and the team have found that using borax, which is found in regular household cleaners and detergents, can be used in gold extraction instead of mercury which is highly poisonous.

E-waste scavenging, car battery breaking and small-scale gold mining appeal to families without economic alternatives. Most often, they do not know the work is toxic and don’t understand why their children are dying. And other times, when they do know, they say they would rather die of lead or mercury poisoning than starvation. We need to provide healthier alternatives and hope for these poor families who don’t have many options.

We understand you helped Richard Fuller select the name Pure Earth and helped design the new logo. How did you come up with the name?

I thought the charity could have a more positive name with a global appeal that defines the good Blacksmith is doing around the world. They are literally “purifying the earth!” Pure Earth reminds me of people, communities, positivity and well-being. Richard is an extremely open and receptive leader, so when I brought the idea to him, he loved it and got the team working on rebranding the logo and website.

Why Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute?

Richard and the team at Pure Earth know how to get this work done and how to bring together powerful groups of collaborators to work with the local communities to solve these problems. When a cleanup is finished and deadly chemicals are removed, the local community immediately sees the benefits; health and life expectancy improves dramatically and the environment is restored. This will help the economic structure of these communities too.

You recently completed filming Chappie with director Neill Blomkamp, due out March 2015. Does Chappie address themes of environmental destruction and social breakdown similar to Elysium?

This movie doesn’t, but Neill is a very environmentally conscious filmmaker, and I can’t wait for the world to see CHAPPIE.

What impact do you hope to make with your involvement in Pure Earth?

I hope to open eyes and save lives.

How can others get involved and help?

Visit the website and see how you can be a part of the amazing work Pure Earth is doing.

 ##

 

For Immediate Release – 4/9/14

 “Slumdog Millionaire” Actor/Activist Dev Patel  Helps Launch “Pure Earth” To Raise Awareness of the Threat Toxic Pollution Poses to Poor Children Around the World

April 9, 2014

New York, NY – Actor/Activist Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Newsroom, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) will help launch the nonprofit Pure Earth (www.pureearth.org) at a benefit gala to be held at Gotham Hall in NYC on April 26, 2014.  Pure Earth will expand on the work done by the Blacksmith Institute, which has been conducting environmental cleanups in poverty-stricken, toxic hot spots around the globe for the past 15 years.

The inaugural Pure Earth benefit gala will honor Dev Patel and Sheldon Kasowitz, Managing Partner at Indus Capital Partners.  The gala will feature artworks for auction by Yoko Ono, Anne Hathaway, Susan Sarandon, Olivia Munn, Faith Ringgold and many others.

We are honored to be working with Dev Patel on this mission to improve the environment and human health in the poorest parts of the globe.  Dev’s passion and commitment to the cause will help us raise awareness about this under-reported global problem that affects over 200 million people, and can be especially deadly for children.” says Richard Fuller, CEO of Pure Earth/Blacksmith.”

Increased global prosperity need not result in an increase of the “poisoned poor”.

Pure Earth embraces the vision, promoted by the Gates Foundation and others, that by 2035, only a handful of countries will be defined as very poor.  Increased prosperity carries great benefits and much hope.  But, because Pure Earth/Blacksmith works on the community level, it is clear that as prosperity and consumption increases, so do the opportunities for risky, toxic work that poison the poorest.

According to Dev Patel, “E-waste scavenging, car battery breaking and small-scale gold mining, appeal to families without economic alternatives.  Most often, they do not know the work is toxic and don’t understand why their children are dying.  And other times, when they do know, they say they would rather die of lead or mercury poisoning than starvation. We need to provide healthier alternatives and hope for these poor families who don’t have many options.”

Advocates for the “Poisoned Poor”

The Pure Earth campaign at Blacksmith will advocate for the “poisoned poor”.  For over 15 years, Blacksmith Institute has been identifying and cleaning up toxic pollution in unknown or ignored communities around the globe.  According to Patel, “Rich and the team at Pure Earth know how to get this work done and how to bring together powerful groups of collaborators to work with the local communities to solve these problems.  When a cleanup is finished and deadly chemicals are removed, the local community immediately sees the benefits; health and life expectancy improves dramatically and the environment is restored.  This will help the economic structure of these communities too.”

What does this look like on the village level?  Children freely play in clean fields of pure earth, no longer laden with lead or arsenic; mothers cook a meal with safe water, free of methyl mercury; artisan potters return home after a days work tracking in the clay dust that no longer carries a deadly chemical threat.  These are the stories Pure Earth will share each year to inspire an increased commitment toward and investment in cleaning up toxic pollution.  Look for the upcoming issue brief that will be published April 22nd.

“The good news this Earth Day is that toxic pollution is one global problem that has a proven solution,” says Fuller, “and with Dev Patel’s support, we are moving ever closer to a Pure Earth.”

Contact:

Angela Bernhardt – angela@pureearth.org

Magdalene Sim – mag@blacksmithinstitute.org

Interviews are available upon request.

For Tickets and benefit information, visit http://benefit.pureearth.org/

 

Pure Earth at the Blacksmith Institute

475 Riverside Drive, Suite 860

New York, NY 10115

+1 212 647 8330

 

 

 

 

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