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Waste and Emissions»Toxic Hotspots - A Problem We Can Solve

»Friday, May 8,2009

Toxic Waste600 million people around the world could die young from toxic waste, as a result of poor industry practice in developing countries.


Mines, car battery recycling sites and tanneries in developing countries are "toxic hotspots" causing retardation in children, cancer and death at an early age, claims Richard Fuller, president of the Blacksmith Institute.

The Blacksmith Institute are New York-based and work closely with communities around the world to clean such sites, focusing mainly on those that threaten human health. It's health and Pollution Fund aims to raise £500 Million, this could help eradicate toxic hotspots in a few decades.

"There are just thousands, not tens of thousands, of toxic hotspots around the world. This is a finite problem," he said. "We can solve this in our lifetimes."

Toxic Hotspots50 such clean-up projects have been completed by Blacksmith since 1999 and they have been working with the ADB and the World Bank to establish funding. People in developing countries such as India and China buy more goods like electronics and cars and concern about polluted places is growing as the world's population swells. Most of the companies responsible are smaller, local firms, not larger multinationals, Fuller said.

Negative publicity surrounding industrial waste effects multinationals more and they usually have ample resources to clean up for themselves, he said. To publicise the issue, an annual listing of the world's wort areas and most polluted places is released by Blacksmith. Africa and China top the list.

There is a battery site in the Dominican Republic (Haina) which Blacksmith has led a $200,000 clean-up. Much of the underlying soil was 30 percent lead, this can lead to severe learning disabilities in children. Costs to lean-up can range from  $10 million for polluted sites with rivers, to $20 million for cleaning up toxic chemicals in rusty containers that face the risk of exploding.

It has been made tougher to raise funds by the global financial crisis, however, Fuller said he is undeterred in his goal. "Half a billion people are being poisoned," he said. "This is not a tolerable situation."

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