Pure Earth uses our research, expertise, and global presence to advocate for ending the multigenerational cycle of mercury and lead poisoning.
Pure Earth’s Policy and Advocacy Initiatives
Pure Earth works with host country governments and international organizations to help them understand the threat of lead and mercury poisoning in vulnerable communities, and develop and implement policies and enforcement mechanisms that address sources of lead and mercury poisoning as well their effects on children already poisoned.
In addition, Pure Earth educates the United States Government and other donor governments about the scale and impact of lead and mercury poisoning globally, especially on children; and encourages that they use that knowledge to commit financial and diplomatic resources to end these scourges.
Engaging G7 on Lead
The G7 issued a strong statement against global lead poisoning in its 2022 Environment Ministers’ Communique. This was the result of a multi-year effort, in part spearheaded by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (which was initiated by Pure Earth), to move the G7 to include lead in its agenda.
In November, 2022, Pure Earth was invited to a G7-hosted workshop on lead to brief participants 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. Following our the briefing, G7 members reiterated their commitment at the Environment Ministers meeting. They reaffirmed the importance of taking action on lead, and agreed that collaborations should be strengthened to address lead poisoning in low-and middle-income countries, in particular regarding vulnerable populations and children’s health.
As part of the Lead Working Group, Pure Earth has been invited back to brief the G7 in 2023 on the scope and urgency of the global lead crisis. Watch the video presented at G7 2022 meeting.
Lead Working Group
Pure Earth is part of the Global Lead Working Group, a multi stakeholder coalition on lead convened by the Center for Global Development (CDG), which has emerged as a strong policy, advocacy and research partner following the publication of the The Toxic Truth report in 2020 from Pure Earth and UNICEF.
The Lead Working Group is composed of policymakers and leaders from affected governments, bilateral agencies and funders, NGOs, and leading researchers and practitioners in the field representing over 20 organizations. The group will produce a report by the end of 2023 that will generate a global lead framework and action agenda to progressively reduce the global burden of lead poisoning. The group will brief a G7 workshop on the scope and urgency of the global lead crisis.
Establishment of First U.N. Science Policy Panel
Pure Earth worked with the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution and partners to advocate for a science-policy panel, bringing our key messages to low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), and during the UNEA5.2 negotiation process. As a result of these efforts, 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.
The science-policy panel is the first such panel to help bridge the science-policy gap for chemicals, waste, and pollution. The panel will help scientists and policymakers open a dialogue and keep information flowing so that the best science to policy decisions can be made to set priorities and solve pollution.
Advising the US House of Representatives on Heavy Metal Contamination of Baby Foods
In February 2021, U.S. House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Committee on Oversight and Reform published a report titled, “Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury” presenting evidence that baby food manufacturers knowingly sell food products containing high levels of toxic heavy metals. Pure Earth reached out to the subcommittee report authors and set up a series of meetings to share knowledge on how heavy metal pollution travels through the global food production system. Richard Fuller convened the meetings and invited experts from the Clean Label Project, The Lactation Lab, Stanford University and the New York City Department of Health, with expertise on various aspects of heavy metal contamination in baby food and other products, to further expand the scope of the Subcommittee’s awareness.
Minamata Convention on Mercury
Each year, Pure Earth representatives attend the Minamata Convention. In 2023, Pure Earth Technical Director Alfonso Rodríguez presented at a side event at COP-5 to discuss how Pure Earth helped create the first-ever temporary storage unit for mercury in Latin America. In 2022, Budi Susilorini and Alfonso Rodriguez from Pure Earth Indonesia and Pure Earth Colombia, respectively, came together to attend the Minamata convention, 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.
Expanding Support for Mercury-Free Gold in the Jewelry Industry
In 2022, Pure Earth joined a panel with the Alliance for Responsible Mining and Andrea Jose from Casa Collab at the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference. 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 annually 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 artisanal and small-scale gold miners. The event showcases the commitment of miners trained by Pure Earth to go mercury free in an exhibition of jewelry crafted using gold produced by these miners.
Education and Awareness is Key to Pure Earth’s Approach to Solving Mercury and Lead Poisoning
Pure Earth disseminates findings to inform and build support with governments and funders for action. With communications operations established in several Pure Earth offices, awareness of the issues and the impact of our work is reaching millions more people.
Highlights: Education and Awareness Raising
Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health
The 2017 Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health concluded that pollution is the world’s largest environmental risk factor for disease and premature death and is an existential threat to human and planetary health, jeopardizing the sustainability of modern societies. In addition to publication in The Lancet, the Report findings were distributed widely through media outlets, reaching over 2 billion people and counting. The work of the Commission was also covered extensively through special partnerships with high-profile media organizations. The publication of the Report coincided with public events around the world highlighting pollution’s impacts.
In May 2022, the Lancet Planetary Health journal published a progress report updating the 2017 Lancet Commission on pollution and health. The report was covered by over 250 news outlets worldwide reaching an audience of over 650 million.
Toxic Truth Report
In 2020, Pure Earth and UNICEF published The Toxic Truth report, which reveals that lead poisoning is affecting children on a massive and previously unknown scale. The report, the first of its kind, says that around 1 in 3 children – up to 800 million globally – have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the level at which requires action. Nearly half of these children live in South Asia. The release of The Toxic Truth generated coverage in more than 2,000 media outlets around the world, including AFP, Al Jazeera , BBC, The Guardian, NPR, The New York Times, Reuters, TIME magazine, The Telegraph, Sky News and Voice of America.
In 2022, Pure Earth produced a short film about a young boy who represents one of the 36 million Bangladeshi children poisoned by lead. The six-minute film, “One in 36 Million” was awarded Grand Prix at the 2023 World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health For All film festival in the Better Health and Well-being category. This documentary takes place in Bangladesh and tells the story of a boy suffering from acute lead poisoning. WHO judges called the film “captivating” and “personal,” and gave the film a global platform to spread its message of hope and solutions.
International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week
Pure Earth teams around the world reach millions every year during International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, an awareness-raising campaign launched by the World Health Organization that takes place every October. Pure Earth country offices organize webinars, panel discussions, school visits, rallies, essay writing competitions, social media campaigns and many other events. Learn more.
‘A World Free of Lead Poisoning’ Roundtable with Government of India
In April 2023, Pure Earth India, the Center for Global Development, Pahle India Foundation, the Asian Development Bank, and UNICEF organized a high-level meeting exploring opportunities for the government of India to take a leadership role in the national and global fight against lead poisoning via its G20 Presidency. That event reached approximately 47 million people with reports in prominent local news outlets. Learn more.