Pure Earth’s Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP) identifies, screens and prioritizes contaminated sites in low- and middle-income countries that pose a human health risk. Since 2009, TSIP investigators in 49 countries have screened more than 3000 sites, resulting in the world’s biggest toxic site database of its kind.
During stage one, a comprehensive review and analysis of existing data on the scope of pollution and its impacts on human health in the northeast states will be conducted; the specific state where TSIP will be implemented will be chosen.
The project will train five local investigators in the methodology of evaluating polluted sites. Government staff will also join in the training. The training is a two-day intensive session taught by Pure Earth staff and technical experts designed to familiarize investigators with sampling techniques, recording methods, and other site assessment protocols.
Following the training, investigators will conduct 100 site assessments according to Pure Earth’s Initial Site Screening (ISS) protocol. The ISS has been used at more than 3,200 sites to date. It is a methodology developed to rapidly assess a polluted place. It is not an in-depth assessment of health, but rather a first pass to estimate if there are toxins present that affect human health.
The system will also calculate a “Blacksmith Index” value for each reviewed site. This Index is a numerical value that enables ranking of sites based on the relative epidemiological impacts of pollution. It measures potential population at risk, the severity of the pollution, the intensity of exposure and the severity or persistence of the toxin. The Blacksmith Index provides a mechanism for prioritizing cleanup efforts and allocating resources to sites that cause the most harm, which will be crucial to the Brazilian government as they begin to expand and develop remediation and intervention strategies.
During the site risk assessment, data will be collected to determine the scale and severity of the pollution problem at the site, including evaluation of how many people are at risk of poisoning. Information on local physical data is collected, as are details regarding stakeholders and other parties.
The assessment process also includes a review of key technical and historical information and a site visit, during which water and soil samples and photographs may be taken. Information is also collected regarding exposure pathway. Sample results are compared to internationally accepted standards for acceptable levels of pollutants found in air, water and soil, such as those calculated by the World Health Organization or the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Assessments will then be uploaded into the existing online TSIP database, where they will be reviewed and approved in New York for quality and consistency. Public access to summary TSIP information will continue to be made available on www.contaminatedsites.org, which features a searchable database.