Press Release: “Slumdog Millionaire” Actor/Activist DEV PATEL Launches “Pure Earth”

“Slumdog Millionaire” Actor/Activist DEV PATEL Launches “Pure Earth” Campaign with Blacksmith Institute, Explains Urgent Need To Fight Toxic Pollution Threatening Poor Children 

Dev Patel

Dev Patel and Freida Pinto at the inaugural PURE EARTH benefit gala in NYC on April 26, 2014.

April 28, 2014, New York, NY – Actor/Activist Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Newsroom, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) has launched Pure  Earth, a new campaign with nonprofit partner Blacksmith Institute aimed at raising awareness of the threat toxic pollution poses to poor children living in some of the world’s worst polluted places. Patel unveiled the new effort at the Pure Earth inaugural benefit gala held at Gotham Hall in NYC on April 26, 2014. Pure Earth will expand on the work done by the Blacksmith Institute, which has been conducting environmental cleanups in poverty-stricken, toxic hot spots around the globe for the past 15 years.

The Pure Earth benefit gala honored Dev Patel and Sheldon Kasowitz, Managing Partner at Indus Capital Partners, and featured artworks for auction by Yoko Ono, Anne Hathaway, Susan Sarandon, Olivia Munn and the cast of Newsroom, Faith Ringgold and others.

According to Patel, filming in India as a teenager was an “eye-opening experience.

The actor, who just celebrated his birthday on April 23, called Pure Earth “the single greatest present. (Read Q&A with Dev Patel )

Patel added: “Even I wasn’t aware of how big the problem was until a couple of years ago when I went on a research trip for a film project to Bhopal India. I witnessed first-hand the appalling conditions the poor families had to face every day who live near the Union Carbide factory, which is now an abandoned toxic hot spot. I was deeply moved by the struggles of these people and began to understand how industrial pollution in the soil and water can lead to birth defects, widespread disease, high cancer rates, and low life expectancy. When Richard Fuller approached me to get involved with Blacksmith and their worldwide clean up, I jumped at the opportunity.”

“We are honored to be working with Dev Patel on this mission to improve the environment and human health in the poorest parts of the globe. Dev’s passion and commitment to the cause will help us raise awareness about this underreported global problem that affects over 200 million people, and can be especially deadly for children,” said Richard Fuller, President of Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute.

The recent report “The Poisoned Poor,” released by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) (Blacksmith serves as Secretariat for the GAHP), highlights the urgency of the issue. The report draws on a study of more than 3,000 toxic sites, funded by the World BankEuropean Commission and Asian Development Bank, that shows that as many as 200 million people may be affected. A detailed analysis of 373 contaminated sites in India, Indonesia and the Philippines calculated that the amount of disease caused by toxic exposures was similar to that of malaria or outdoor air pollution in those three countries (see one-page summary).

More on the issue:

Increased global prosperity need not result in an increase of the “poisoned poor”.

Pure Earth embraces the vision, promoted by the Gates Foundation and others, that by 2035, only a handful of countries will be defined as very poor. Increased prosperity carries great benefits and much hope. But, because Pure Earth/Blacksmith works on the community level, it is clear that as prosperity and consumption increases, so do the opportunities for risky, toxic work that poison the poorest, like Seynabou Mbengue, a woman in Senegal who lost five children because of her toxic job. 

Advocates for the “Poisoned Poor”

The Pure Earth campaign at Blacksmith will advocate for the “poisoned poor”. For over 15 years, Blacksmith Institute has been identifying and cleaning up toxic pollution in unknown or ignored communities around the globe.

What does this look like on the village level? — Children freely play in clean fields of pure earth, no longer laden with lead or arsenic; mothers cook a meal with safe water, free of methyl mercury; artisan potters return home after a days work tracking in the clay dust that no longer carries a deadly chemical threat.  These are the stories Pure Earth will share each year to inspire an increased commitment toward and investment in cleaning up toxic pollution.

“The good news is that toxic pollution is one global problem that has a proven solution,” says Fuller, “and with Dev Patel’s support, we are moving ever closer to a Pure Earth.”