Global Pollution Cleanup: The Good News

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A new report examining 12 pollution cleanup efforts around the world took a different approach to the often bleak subject of pollution. But don’t start the celebration yet – there’s still a long way to go.

The Blacksmith Institute, an international nonprofit focused on solving pollution problems in the developing world, released the “World’s Worst Polluted Places” report, which addresses both the environmental and health benefits of pollution cleanup.

The report says that according to some estimates, the health of more than 1 billion people around the globe is compromised by exposure to air, water and soil pollution. Also, exposure to pollution causes 40 percent of deaths annually.

Smog looms over Cairo's skyline. Photo: Flickr/ninahale

Smog clouds Cairo's skyline. According to the report, remediation, education, legislation and innovation are the keys to solving the wide range of international pollution issues. Photo: Flickr/ninahale

Listed in the report are possible solutions to polluted areas, including new techniques to reduce mercury poisoning from artisanal gold mining in Indonesia; public policies controlling vehicle emissions which cause respiratory illnesses in India; the medical, psychological and educational interventions in Chernobyl-affected areas of Eastern Europe; and sewage cleanup in China to restore the quality of drinking water.

“This year, instead of our annual listing of the world’s worst polluted places or pollution problems, we are focusing on the positive,” says Richard Fuller, president and founder of the Blacksmith Institute.

“The takeaway here is that eliminating pollution is difficult but not impossible. The report shows that pollution can be tackled successfully. We just need the right resources and commitment.”

The report also highlighted two international projects as models of how the international community can work together to successfully solve these types of problems.

But despite these successes, pollution cleanup is still not a priority in developing countries. The report concludes that nations should see these accomplishments as proof that dedicating funding into remediation programs can have a big impact.

On the national level, the EPA recently released its report of the most polluted areas in the U.S. The number of affected areas decreased from 57 in 2007 to 31 in 2008.

The Blacksmith Institute worked with Green Cross Switzerland to compile the top 10 pollution locations and problems detailed in the report.

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