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Top Ten Toxic Threats 2013

Letter from Blacksmith President

Dear Reader:

The scope of pollution in the developing world is starting now to come into focus. Our initiative to inventory polluted sites throughout the developing world has registered early indications that the scope is comparable in population and risk to human health to problems like malaria and HIV; in other words, a huge problem not on the international radar screen.

It’s a solvable problem. Whereas our earlier reports focused on educating people about pollution’s existence and impact, this year we want to celebrate successes. We do this to show that the problems can be tackled successfully even with limited funding, and, through models, can be replicated around the world. Doing so would save innumerable lives, aid economic development, improve neighborhoods and increase general intelligence.

It is important however to note that these examples were hard to come by. The successes are few and far between. So don’t think the problem is near licked. We are showing off solutions because we want people to know that the problem is finite and the solutions doable.

The solutions outlined here range in size and type. But there are common threads. Remediation is the most obvious: getting in and removing soil polluted by heavy metals in the Rudnaya region in Russia or stockpiled pesticides that leach into local water supplies in Tanzania. But there is also the need for local education to inform people about these silent killers and how to take steps to protect themselves daily. Legislation has played an enormous role in reducing the toll of pollution globally. The elimination of lead in gasoline in much of the world is responsible for improving intelligence: more coordinated international efforts such as the Chemical Weapons Convention are clearly needed.  Finally, there is a role for innovation, some technological but also social. The Gyapa stoves project in Ghana, for instance, builds on a technological innovation – a new type of stove – with social innovations, including the creation of a sustainable business model to support broad distribution.

Here is a way for us to make a difference for hundreds of millions – measurably and effectively - in our lifetime.

Richard Fuller
Founder, Blacksmith Institute