Women and the Fight Against Pollution

March 12, 2019–The 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women is currently taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Pure Earth is joining with participants from around the world to discuss a variety of issues concerning the empowerment of women and girls, equal rights, access to opportunities and more.

Here at Pure Earth, we aim for equal participation of women in all our projects. Here’s why:

  • Exposures to dangerous chemicals have a multigenerational impact on women, families and entire communities. Pregnant women can transmit toxins to their infants in utero and via breast milk. Toxic exposures have been linked to pre-term birth, and infant mortality. Research shows that exposure to toxic pollution in utero can also impact the future reproductive and genetic health of a developing fetus.
  • Because of their traditional gender roles, women usually work with children nearby.  Then they return to their homes to care for and prepare meals for the family. If women are exposed to toxic pollution, chances are that their families will be poisoned too.
  • Millions of women work in artisanal and small-scale industries that pollute and use dangerous chemicals on a daily basis. These industries include artisanal gold mining, used lead-acid battery recycling and leather tanning.
  • Women are commonly pushed to the fringe in these industries, thereby forming a de facto high-risk population. For example, they may be economically isolated, excluded from cooperatives or ownership positions or paid through back channels to work in their homes or backyards rather than in monitored, safer industrial environments.
  • Toxic pollution can make women’s daily routines more difficult, preventing them from making strides in their lives.  For example, contamination of soil and rivers has made many ground and surface water sources no longer usable for domestic use. Not only does this affect the availability of clean water but it also disrupts women’s daily routines with the need to fetch or buy water in areas located farther away, keeping them away from their family and work opportunities. In addition, this could mean that scarce income has to be diverted to the purchase of safe water. This can trap women in a cycle of poverty.
  • Pollution impacts the poor the most, and women are more likely to be at the bottom of the social-economic ladder. The poisoned poor cannot afford to move or clean up their toxic communities.

Learn more about Why Women Hold The Key To Fighting Pollution; or see these stories below:

Generational Impact of Lead Poisoning in Girls

Empowering Women Gold Miners in Indonesia

A Mother’s Story: Mongolian “Gold Ninja” Goes Mercury-Free For Her Children

The Story of A Mother and the Five Children She Lost

Why Women Hold The Key To Fighting Pollution

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