Government of Brazil
Before country governments can begin taking action to alleviate the effects of toxic pollution on human health, they must understand the scale, severity, and sources of pollution, as well as its impacts for health, poverty, and economic growth. Unfortunately, that data is scarce in low- and middle-income countries.
This Toxic Sites Investigation Project (TSIP) project began the process of identifying and quantifying pollution problems in Brazil. It included the establishment of a toxic site database, using well-developed systems that are already in place in over 50 countries. This type of work has been initiated in several Latin American countries (Uruguay, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Chile, and Bolivia), but not Brazil.
With the TSIP in São Paulo completed, the data now serves as a model to encourage greater access to and participation from other Brazilian states.
During the first stage of the project, a comprehensive review and analysis of existing data on the scope of pollution and its impacts on human health in Brazil was conducted. WHO and IHME statistics was reviewed to determine the impact of various pollution pathways and types on the peoples of Brazil. This analysis was presented in a summary report for review by government agencies.
Representatives from Pure Earth coordinated goals and actions with authorities from the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and the Environmental Company of the State of São Paulo. A key outcome of the meeting determined that the project would focus exclusively on the southeastern state of São Paulo.
The TSIP training commenced March 2-4, 2016, at the University of São Paulo Medical School, with strong interest and representation from the government. Participants included five site investigators and twelve government representatives.
Trainees were primed in both methods of theory and practice related to the TSIP. This included a field trip that allowed trainees—both investigators and government members—to practice the rapid site assessment protocol inside a safe, controlled sporting area. Participants were divided into three teams, sent to collect data and information while simulating real field conditions and practice, and then trained to input information into the TSIP database.
In total, 23 sites were evaluated, exceeding the target 20 site surveys. Lead (Pb) was the most frequently occurring primary contaminant, found at eleven of the sites. Other contaminants identified were toxic heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, and cadmium) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides.
The total population affected at these sites was estimated at 87,363. Data collected from site investigations also helped to prioritize the sites based on the level of contamination and public health risk.
This project successfully established TSIP in São Paulo as a model to follow. As a result, the Government was willing to help identify more sites with legacy contamination to undergo the rapid site assessment. The Ministry of Environment has since expressed interest in bringing this program to other states. The MoE would also like to continue working with Pure Earth in preparing guidance documents that would allow government officials throughout Brazil to readily identify potential toxic sites before those sites are chosen for future development projects, such as affordable housing programs. The Government will now have access to a polluted sites inventory that can develop into a national database as the program seeks to further establish TSIP in other Brazilian states.