Focus on Research in Developing World: “We are missing the full picture”

 

(NOTE:  Deadline Jan. 12, 2015 to apply for research grants.  See below)

haz matOver the past few years, Blacksmith Institute for a Pure Earth has embarked on a broad effort to expand research and understanding about the issue of toxic pollution, especially its damaging impact in low and middle-income countries, where pollution is the largest killer. Without data and information, one of the world’s biggest global problems will remain invisible.

 

“Although toxic pollution is one of the biggest global threats, cleanup has been slow partly because there has been a lack of data to chronicle the scope and reach of problem. And this void of knowledge is greatest in poor and middle-income countries. Without proper data and studies, the toxic pollution problems plaguing these nations cannot be solved.”

— Richard Fuller, president of Blacksmith Institute for a Pure Earth.

“Some scientists are at a disadvantage – they have no funds to support the write up of their research… As a result, not enough is written and published about the effects of toxic pollution in low and middle income countries.”

“… we are missing the full picture, missing local information. Research is going on but it is not known among funders of the world.”

— Sandy Page-Cook, Managing Editor of the Journal of Health and Pollution, in Teaching Scientists in Developing Countries to WriteHuffington Post, Dec. 2014

Crucial Pipeline

Blacksmith/Pure Earth is creating a crucial pipeline for this information to reach organizations like the World Bank, European aid agencies and others who have the vast funding needed to deal with threats to human health from pollution.

Our efforts have allowed us to paint the clearest picture to date of pollution’s devastating hold on the poisoned poorMore than one in seven deaths in the world are pollution-related. Here’s a snapshot of pollution’s global toll.

Here are three ways we are continuing to close this knowledge gap:

1) Small Research Grants 2015: Call for Proposals, Deadline Jan. 12, 2015

Calling all researchers and scientists, there is still time to apply for these grants – deadline January 12, 205.  The grants are intended mainly to support researchers in their effort to write up their findings for publication in an international, peer-reviewed journal. Research work should focus on the scope, effects and remediation of toxic pollution in poor countries.  Click on the link above to get details.

2) Teaching Scientists in Developing Countries to Write for International Journals

To date, over 100 researchers, including Kenyan scientist Faridah Hussein Were, have taken the free online course developed by Blacksmith/Pure Earth in collaboration with AuthorAID, to help researchers and scientists from low and middle-income countries improve their technical writing and editing skills with an eye to getting their views and findings in major international journals. The course will increase from five to ten weeks next year.

3) Journal of Health and Pollution Gives Voice to Researchers from Underrepresented Countries

Published by Blacksmith/Pure Earth, the Journal of Health and Pollution (JH&P) is the only journal focused exclusively on low and middle-income countries. The online journal of peer reviewed research and news is an important pipeline of crucial data and analysis of this global problem in countries that are often underrepresented in major studies. In 2015, the journal will enter its fifth year.

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Three Papers Published in Prestigious Journal

Richard Fuller, Blacksmith Institute for a Pure Earth President with a  Mexican potter

Richard Fuller, Blacksmith Institute for a Pure Earth President with a Mexican potter

Our effort to expand research and understanding about toxic pollution continues this month with three papers published in the prestigious Annals of Global Health, formerly known as The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine (Volume 80, Issue 4, p245-344, e1-e11 July–August 2014). 

Environmental pollution is the main cause of disease and death in the developing world. In 2012, exposures to polluted soil, water, and air resulted in an estimated 8.4 million deaths worldwide. By comparison, HIV/AIDS is responsible for 1.5 million deaths annually and malaria and tuberculosis less than 1 million each. More than 1 in 7 deaths globally are the result of environmental pollution.

This key paper is available in English and Spanish. It is an extensive historical review and analysis of 83 published articles from 1978 to 2010 containing available data on blood lead levels from more than 50,000 participants.  Using this data, researchers calculated a  geometric mean to evaluate the effect of lead on the pediatric burden of disease.

The results indicate that more than 15% of the population will experience a decrement of more than 5 IQ points from lead exposure. The analysis also leads researchers to believe that lead is responsible for 820,000 disability-adjusted life-years for lead-induced mild mental retardation for children aged 0 to 4 years.

In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), chemical exposures in the environment due to hazardous waste sites and toxic pollutants are typically poorly documented and their health impacts insufficiently quantified. Furthermore, there often is only limited understanding of the health and environmental consequences of point source pollution problems, and little consensus on how to assess and rank them. The contributions of toxic environmental exposures to the global burden of disease are not well characterized.

This study describes the simple but effective approach taken by Blacksmith Institute’s Toxic Sites Identification Program to quantify and rank toxic exposures in LMICs. This system is already in use at more than 3000 sites in 48 countries such as India, Indonesia, China, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine.

Related:

CDC’s MMWR Features Our Findings on Lead in Kabwe’s Children

CDC’s MMWR Features Our Findings on Lead in Kabwe’s Children

The latest issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the main resource for key public health information and recommendations from the CDC, features field notes from our July trip to Kabwe, where we found devastating levels of lead poisoning in children.

kid in tub IMG_5293 copy

With a population of approximately 203,000, Kabwe is located in Zambia’s Copperbelt.

For nearly 100 years, lead mining and smelting operations contaminated the soil in the community.

Our Blacksmith/Pure Earth team, which included Dr. Jack Caravanos from the City University of New York School of Public Health, and Green Cross Switzerland, conducted extensive surface soil testing across 12 neighborhoods, and blood lead testing of 196 children aged two to eight years in six communities adjacent to the now-closed Kabwe mines and smelters.

Testing the playground for toxins.

Testing the playground for toxins.

We found that 26.5% of the children recorded blood lead levels higher than 65.0 µg/dL. The reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated is 5 µg/dL. The CDC recommends that lead chelation therapy be considered when a child has a blood lead level ≥45 µg /dL.

Read the full article in MMWR.

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