Solve pollution. Save lives. Protect the planet.

May 9, 2017

Mother and child in Senegal

We see them all the time when we work in polluted hotspots where, really, no one should be living.

We see them going about their daily, often back-breaking work, many times with children in tow.

These women are often too busy taking care of daily necessities to do anything else, let alone worry about their contaminated communities.

But these women are often the key to change. Once they realize their children are being poisoned, they are usually the ones who are the most eager to learn what they can do to keep their families safe, and to lead by example.

Below are some amazing stories of moms around the world:


Mrs. Mungun, who turned to artisanal gold mining to provide for her family after her husband died, trained to go mercury-free to protect her children.

Mrs. Mungun proudly shows off the wardrobe she was able to buy for her children with her earnings as a mercury-free gold miner in Mongolia.


Rosario, an artisanal potter, switched to using lead-free glazes in her workshop to keep her granddaughter safe.

Rosario in her workshop in Mexico.


In Senegal, mothers taught fellow mothers about the dangers of lead poisoning from the unsafe and informal recycling of lead-acid car batteries, so that they could avoid tragedies that mothers like Seynabou Mbengue endured.

Women congregate in Thiaroye-sur-Mer, Senegal


These gold miners in Indonesia are leading the way. Not only have they trained to go mercury-free, but they’ve now established a collective that we are helping to connect with local jewelers, who will buy their mercury-free gold.

Empowering gold miners in Indonesia. Click on the photo to read more about these enterprising women.

Did You Know…

... women and children in low- and middle-income countries are the most vulnerable victims of toxic pollution?

WHO reports that every year, environmental risks take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years.

In many communities, women are more at risk because 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.

And if women are affected, so are their families. Exposures to dangerous chemicals have a multigenerational impact on women, families and entire communities.

Learn why women hold the key to fighting pollution.

Snapshots of Moms Around The World

Mom and baby in Bihar, India. Click on photo to read more.

Two-year old Dexter with his mom in the Philippines. Click on the photo to read more about Dexter.

Residents of Hazaribagh, the tanning district in Dacha, make their way over a shaky bamboo bridge that spans a effluent canal carrying factory wast toward the Buriganga River. April 21st marks the third anniversary of the implosion of Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza garment factory complex,a tragedy that killed 1,129 and injured 2500 more young people sewing clothes for brands like Benetton, the Children’s Place and Wal-Mart. Rana Plaza illustrated how Bangladesh’s cheap prices came along with the country’s weak institutions, politically connected factory owners and a culture of impunity. But not every example of this impunity plays as well on TV. In 2012, Human Rights Watch’s “Toxic Tanneries,” revealed that none of the more than 250 leather tanneries in Old Dhaka’s Hazaribagh neighborhood treated the blue chromium-laced liquid that they used to transform rigid animal skins to into our supple leather. Even by the lax environmental standards of neighboring India, Hazaribagh is a disaster. In India, leather tanneries consistently flout pollution norms; in Bangladesh, they don’t even bother to try. In 2013, the same year as Rana Plaza, Hazaribagh made Pure Earth’s Worst Polluted List. In Hazaribagh, pollution is inescapable. Brown and grey liquid waste flows through a series of channels that criss-cross the neighborhood, carrying tannery waste into local creek with viscous water the color of liquid cement, choked with refuse, that oozes through the center of the neighborhood. One one side of the creek, stray dogs lounge on three foot piles of leather scraps. On the other side, you can glimpse the remnants of a glue factory that cook down various animal parts to make glue. The smell, equal parts chemicals, slaughterhouse and desperation, assaults you. This caustic blue-grey waste flows directly into the Buriganga River, where chromium and lead exceed permissible levels by 105 and 80 times, respectively. An estimated 180, 000 people in the area now suf Residents of Hazaribagh, the tanning district of Dhaka, Bangladesh, make their way over a shaky bamboo bridge that spans an effluent canal carrying factory waste toward the Buriganga River. Photo: Larry C. Price.

A family in Senegal living near a site suspected of being contaminated by lead and e-waste processing. A family in Senegal living near a site suspected of being contaminated with lead from lead-acid battery and e-waste processing.

Taking a break from scavenging at a dumpsite in India Taking a break from scavenging at a dumpsite in India.

Mother sleeping with her child in the middle of Ghana's Agbogbloshie market, where most of the world's e-waste ends up. Mother sleeping with her child in the middle of Ghana’s Agbogbloshie market, near a large e-waste processing site.

In the Dominican Republic A mother and her child in the Dominican Republic near a lead-contaminated site.

IMG_0555 This pregnant mother in Indonesia is worried her fetus may be exposed to toxic lead.

Mother and child at a school in Kyrgyzstan to watch an educational play teaching about the dangers of lead. Mother and child at a school in Kyrgyzstan to watch an educational play presented by Pure Earth about the dangers of lead.

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