The Blacksmith Institute for a Pure Earth, Green Cross Switzerland, and Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) have published a new report, “Top Ten Countries Turning the Corner on Toxic Pollution,” as part of their annual 'World’s Worst Polluted' series to raise global awareness about the extent and the impacts of toxic pollution in low- and middle-income countries.
The report revisits the countries featured in a 2009 report, “12 Cases of Cleanup and Success” for inspiration and highlights the commitment and progress developing countries are making in overcoming toxic pollution. In these areas, pollution kills 8.4 million people each year, most of them children, and an estimated 200 million people suffer serious pollution-related health problems, including brain damage, from exposure to lead, mercury, pesticides and a host of other chemicals.
The cities and their stories shared within the report demonstrate that in spite of numerous obstacles and lack of resources, with collaboration and commitment, something can always be done to begin to improve even the most polluted areas. Below are summaries of three success stories featured in the report:
E-waste recycling is an important source of income for the thousands in Agbogbloshie, Ghana. Their methods, including burning of electronic scrap to recover prized metals, particularly copper, had taken a dreadful toll on the health of the people and the environment. Now wire-stripping machines eliminate burning of e-waste and offer a safer, healthier way to extract the metals.
Thiaroye Sur Mer, Senegal
Acute lead poisoning, a rare condition caused by prolonged daily exposure to lead, took the lives of 18 young children in a matter of months. The women of the community had been breaking used lead-acid batteries and smelting the lead to extract it for resale. Lead fumes and dust contaminated the community killing children and impairing the health of others. Project partners and funders, along with the Senegalese government, not only removed lead contamination from the village, but also trained the women in hydroponic agriculture as an alternative means of income to this toxic work.
Low-income workers in Montevideo burn electronic waste and electrical cables to obtain copper for resale. By burning e-waste over open pit fires they created “toxic hotspots” in their own communities, sites where contamination from heavy metals and other toxins are so high, it is a danger to human health. The GAHP teamed up with the City of Montevideo to identify and clean up some of the worst toxic hotspots of the city.
For the full report and more information on these and other stories, visit www.worstpolluted.org
While these stories highlight some of the recent successes in cleaning up pollution in these areas, it is important to remember that there is still a long way to go in repairing the damage and preventing the root causes of this contamination. To ensure your electronics do not get exported overseas and further contaminate developing countries, partner with an e-Stewards certified recycler. e-Stewards’ recyclers adhere to the most stringent, global standards for recycling e-waste and worker protection. e-Stewards is the only certification that strictly prohibits the exportation of toxic e-waste to developing countries.
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