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Brazil: Toxic Site Identification Program (Northeast region)

the details…
Population affected
Date started
March 2017
Alcoa Foundation; with additional support from EC, UNIDO
Project Partners


Pure Earth’s TSIP (Toxic Sites Identification Program) identifies and assesses contaminated sites in low- and middle-income countries, where public health is at risk. Pure Earth-trained local TSIP investigators visit and document sites using the Initial Site Screening (ISS) protocol. The data is then reviewed and entered into Pure Earth’s TSIP database of polluted sites, which helps governments understand, prioritize and address pollution in their countries. 

Pollution will have significant health impacts in Brazil. Before affected stakeholders in Brazil can begin to develop a comprehensive plan to remediate and prevent toxic pollution, they must first understand the scope of the issue.

Building upon Pure Earth’s experience gained in Sao Paulo, this project will implement the Toxic Site Identification Program (TSIP)  in one of the states in the northeast region. Furthermore, the project will create a guidance document for State government agencies across the country to identify potential toxic sites.

Project Summary

Pure Earth’s Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP) identifies, screens and prioritizes contaminated sites in low- and middle-income countries that pose a human health risk. Since 2009, TSIP investigators in over 50 countries have identified about 5000 sites, resulting in the world’s biggest toxic site database of its kind.

During stage one, a comprehensive review and analysis of existing data on the scope of pollution and its impacts on human health in the northeast states will be conducted; the specific state where TSIP will be implemented will be chosen.

The project will train five local investigators in the methodology of evaluating polluted sites. Government staff will also join in the training. The training is a two-day intensive session taught by Pure Earth staff and technical experts designed to familiarize investigators with sampling techniques, recording methods, and other site assessment protocols.

Following the training, investigators will conduct 100 site assessments according to Pure Earth’s Initial Site Screening (ISS) protocol. The ISS has been used at more than 3,200 sites to date. It is a methodology developed to rapidly assess a polluted place. It is not an in-depth assessment of health, but rather a first pass to estimate if there are toxins present that affect human health.

The system will also calculate a “Blacksmith Index” value for each reviewed site. This Index is a numerical value that enables ranking of sites based on the relative epidemiological impacts of pollution. It measures potential population at risk, the severity of the pollution, the intensity of exposure and the severity or persistence of the toxin. The Blacksmith Index provides a mechanism for prioritizing cleanup efforts and allocating resources to sites that cause the most harm, which will be crucial to the Brazilian government as they begin to expand and develop remediation and intervention strategies.

During the site risk assessment, data will be collected to determine the scale and severity of the pollution problem at the site, including evaluation of how many people are at risk of poisoning. Information on local physical data is collected, as are details regarding stakeholders and other parties.

The assessment process also includes a review of key technical and historical information and a site visit, during which water and soil samples and photographs may be taken. Information is also collected regarding exposure pathway. Sample results are compared to internationally accepted standards for acceptable levels of pollutants found in air, water and soil, such as those calculated by the World Health Organization or the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Assessments will then be uploaded into the existing online TSIP database, where they will be reviewed and approved in New York for quality and consistency. Public access to summary TSIP information will continue to be made available on, which features a searchable database.

Walking The Earth To Find Pollution. Meet Our Toxic Site Investigators, Watch Them In Action In Brazil (VIDEO)

Read the press release:

Effort Launching in Brazil to Identify and Map Toxic Pollution Hotspots Threatening Health of Children and Families; Laying Groundwork for Cleanup

Guidance documents: