2022 was a year of growth. Pure Earth programs doubled in size, enabling us to expand our focus on lead and mercury in the most impacted countries.
As a result of this expansion, long-time Pure Earth officer Drew McCartor, who most recently served as Vice President for Strategy and Partnerships, moved into the role of Executive Director in the Fall of 2022. Drew is working closely with Pure Earth President Richard Fuller to continue growing Pure Earth’s impact.
Pure Earth also added experts to the team: Gabriel Sanchez Ibarra, our new Vice President for Programs, came to us from Doctors Without Borders, where he headed the emergency response unit after a career in humanitarian, developmental and environmental programs in more than 25 countries; Dr. Stephan Boese-O´Reilly, an expert in addressing lead and mercury exposures in children, joined as Senior Technical Director; while world-renowned physician-scientist-epidemiologist Dr. Howard Hu, a member of Physicians for Human Rights (Nobel Peace Prize, 1997), joined our board.
Here is a look back at highlights from a productive year.
Advising G7 Leaders About Global Childhood Lead Poisoning
In November 2022, Pure Earth was among the experts invited to a meeting to inform G7 leaders about lead as a major threat for human health and the environment. We shared data summarizing the current research on lead’s impact on children, common sources of lead exposure, and solutions that are working to protect children around the world.
Watch the video Pure Earth presented to the global audience of leaders at the G7.
Pure Earth’s Founder Named to “Future Perfect 50” List of People Building a Better World
In October 2022, Vox media named Pure Earth’s Founder and President Richard Fuller to its Future Perfect 50 list recognizing “the scientists, thinkers, scholars, writers, and activists building a more perfect future.” In Richard’s case, the recognition was a nod to his 20 years of unrelenting work focused on reducing lead poisoning and other toxic pollution. The list included leaders that “… are defined by the belief that change for the better is possible.” We can testify to that belief by what we do every day at Pure Earth.
Update to The Lancet Commission on pollution and health
2022 saw the release of the follow-up to 2017’s landmark report from The Lancet Commission on pollution and health, which brought the issue of pollution to the world’s attention. Pollution and health: a progress update revealed that pollution’s alarming toll has not decreased in the five years since the original report was published, and that pollution remains the most significant environmental risk factor for disease and premature death, with deaths caused by toxic chemical pollution (including lead) increasing 66% since 2000.
A briefing on the report at NYU’s School of Global Public Health, hosted by Dr. Jack Caravanos on May 19th, drew nearly 300 participants, who heard the report’s authors and other experts issue an urgent call to action, as global media, such as The Guardian, BBC, and Bloomberg News, led with headlines like “Pollution Kills 9 Million People a Year as Fixes Are Neglected.”
Helping to Establish First U.N. Science Policy Panel to Address Pollution
In March 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly agreed that a Science Policy Panel should be established to contribute to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution. This resolution was a major achievement for the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), which advocated for this move with partners including Pure Earth.
Pure Earth’s Leadership Council Adds Stranger Things Star, CEOs, Activists
Stranger Things star Matthew Modine, an ardent environmentalist, recorded a special message for Earth Day 2022 as a new member of the Pure Earth Leadership Council.
“As a lifelong environmental activist, I’m inspired by Pure Earth’s unrelenting focus on action and solutions in the worst polluted areas of the world,” said Modine. “And as a husband and father, I appreciate that they have boots on the ground in dozens of countries where children and pregnant women are at highest risk from toxic exposures. I look forward to working with their excellent team to create positive change and stop toxic pollutants from harming people and the many forms of life we share the earth with.”
Pure Earth also welcomed Bangladeshi youth activist Faatiha Aayat, known for addressing the U.N. on global climate issues at age seven. Today, the teen continues to lend her voice to disadvantaged children. With Pure Earth, she will help focus awareness on childhood lead poisoning, which affects 1 in 3 children around the world.
Women made their mark on the Pure Earth Leadership Council in 2022. Pure Earth welcomed Lisa Conte, Founder & CEO, Jaguar Health & Napo Pharmaceuticals; Beth Gerstein, Co-Founder & CEO, Brilliant Earth, a global sustainable jewelry brand; chef Graciela Montaño of Mexico City; and designer Dana Bronfman.
Keeping the Focus on Maternal and Child Health with Former EPA Administrator Carol Browner
Pure Earth continued to draw attention to pollution’s outsized impact on maternal and child health with the annual International Women’s Day Force of Nature awards. In 2022, Pure Earth recognized Carol Browner, the longest serving Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); along with Christina Malle, a former human rights lawyer turned goldsmith and advocate for a traceable and transparent jewelry supply chain; and Dr. Netzy Peralta, an anthropologist by training, and also a member of the Nahua community, the largest indigenous group in Mexico. Pure Earth’s Forces of Nature are leaders working for change.
Drawing Attention to Toxins Flowing into Global Kitchens
Curated by Chef Graciela Montaño of Mexico City, a Pure Earth ambassador and member of the Pure Earth Leadership Council, Pure Earth’s Kitchen cookbook was published to help raise awareness about the contamination of food products like spices that can be found around the world. The cookbook features recipes from Mexican and Indian chefs, and tips on how to keep food and kitchen safe from toxins.
Campaigning Globally for International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week
In 2022, Pure Earth continued to make waves during International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW) with awareness-raising events around the world designed to move local governments to take action to stop childhood lead poisoning.
Pure Earth’s global teams took the message directly to people on the street, at the beach, at work, in malls, and in villages. They then amplified the campaign on social media, reaching over a million people in India, and 50 million in Bangladesh.
Highlights include a human chain with hundreds of students and activists demanding action on pollution in Bangladesh, school club visits in Ghana, and a major news roundtable on CNBC India’s “Big Deal,” featuring a discussion on lead poisoning with Pure Earth’s President and leaders of India’s battery industry.
Pure Earth also premiered “Films from the field,” a series of three shorts showing the impact of lead on a family, a community, and an entire country; along with a series of webinars and a special podcast with Vital Strategies. Learn more about our global ILPPW events.
Looking for Lead in Markets Across 25 Countries
In 2022, Pure Earth investigators collected and analyzed 2,500 samples, and completed investigations in 15 out of the 25 countries in our Rapid Market Screenings project to identify products contaminated with lead sold in markets around the world. Investigators have been collecting a variety of common market goods, including samples of spices, sweets, metal cookware, ceramics, herbal medicines, cosmetics, house paints and pigments, and toys. Work is ongoing and is expected to be finished in 2023. Support for this work comes from GiveWell, the Effective Altruism Global Health and Development Fund, and Open Philanthropy.
Presenting Pure Earth’s Mercury Index at the Minamata Convention
In 2022, Budi Susilorini and Alfonso Rodriguez from Pure Earth Indonesia and Colombia came together to attend the Minamata convention on mercury, where they shared details about Pure Earth’s innovative Mercury Index.
Like the Blacksmith Index, which Pure Earth developed over a decade ago, the mercury index analyzes soil, water, and population demographics, including the number of pregnant women and children under 12 exposed. The new Mercury Index considers factors unique to mercury, like the amount of vapor inhaled and whether the mercury amalgam was burned indoors. The new index could serve as a tool for governments to prioritize and remediate mercury sites across the world.
Pure Earth Wins Global Competition for Innovation in the Rainforest
Out of 121 applicants from 22 countries, a team from Pure Earth Colombia emerged as one of four winners of The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge to develop new innovations to conserve the Amazon rainforest. Pure Earth’s innovative technique uses copper plates to decontaminate mercury-filled waste tailings from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).
Piloting the First Mercury-Free Gold Supply Chain from the Peruvian Amazon
In 2022, Pure Earth teamed up with the Alliance for Responsible Mining and the global jewelry company Brilliant Earth on a new program that aims to create the first mercury-free gold supply chain from the Peruvian Amazon, one of the largest sources of gold production in the world.
The initiative is training and transitioning miners to mercury-free techniques, helping them rehabilitate land damaged from mining through reforestation, and guiding them through the process of becoming Fairmined certified and producing Fairmined Ecological Gold.
To date the project has completed the reforestation of about 3 hectares of rainforest and numerous training sessions. The project has even inspired miner Hugo Quispe to establish his own nursery to help supply plants to his own and other mining concessions. This would negate the need to transport seedlings over long distances into the Amazon. Listen to what the miners are saying about their work with Pure Earth in their own words.
Expanding Support for Pure Earth in the Jewelry Industry
2022 saw our work with the jewelry industry expand with events, collaborations and more.
At the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference, Pure Earth joined a panel with the Alliance for Responsible Mining and Andrea Jose from Casa Collab. The panel shared information about Pure Earth’s work with miners, and encouraged other companies to follow the Brilliant Earth Foundation’s lead in funding projects in the field and educating consumers.
At Reciprocity, an event held at the Peruvian Consulate in New York as part of New York City Jewelry Week, Pure Earth joined organizer Andrea Jose for a discussion about our work with miners. The event showcased the commitment of miners trained by Pure Earth to go mercury free in an exhibition of jewelry crafted using gold produced by these miners. The event was covered in El Comercio, one of Peru’s top news sources, highlighting the important connection between miners and jewelers.
The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), which represents over 1600 companies across the global watch and jewelry supply chain, featured Pure Earth’s work in their industry newsletter and in their 2022 progress report.
Pure Earth’s engagement with the jewelry industry continued at the 2022 Benefit bash, with the premiere of a video focused on what jewelers and their consumers can do. The event also saw Brilliant Earth CEO Beth Gerstein receiving the Impact Award in recognition of her leadership supporting efforts to remove toxic mercury from the gold mining process. Gerstein reiterated her support of Pure Earth’s work by joining Pure Earth’s Leadership Council.
The 2022 Pure Earth Pure Gold collection saw the participation of over 30 jewelers. For the first time, the collection featured works crafted using only Fairmined gold. Actor and musician Ruby Rivera Modine showcased the collection, engaging thousands of people on Instagram and other social media platforms, with news reports in the New York Daily News and National Jeweler among others.