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Transboundary Pollution Poses Growing Global Health Threat

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Disease-causing toxic pollution is a leading cause of death globally, and harms the health of millions of people, including those who live far from the source of the pollution, according to a new report issued today by the non-profit organization Pure Earth.

The findings of Pollution Knows No Borders, the first comprehensive report to aggregate expert analysis and relevant scientific literature on this topic, will be presented at a briefing in New York on Jan. 8 by Richard Fuller, President, Pure Earth; Gina McCarthy, Former US EPA Administrator, and current director, Center for Climate Health and the Global Environment, Harvard University; Janez Potočnik, Co-Chair of UN Intl. Resource Panel; Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur, and others. (Interviews are available, click here to learn how to attend the briefing remotely.)

“When it comes to pollution, we are all connected. There is an invisible toxic thread that links workers being poisoned in poorer countries producing products, and consumers exposed to poisons while consuming these products. Reducing pollution is the right thing to do for children growing up in these countries, and it will also safeguard the health of children in wealthier consumer nations,” says Richard Fuller, President, Pure Earth.

The report documents the global harm caused by the movement of toxins from low- and middle-income countries that lack substantive pollution controls. Examples include:

  • Air pollution – Toxic particles from burning coal in Eastern Europe affect Western Europe. Particles from China form a significant part of air pollution in California.
  • Water pollution – Mercury from Asia and Africa ends up in the fish we eat in the US and Europe. Contaminated industrial wastewater in India and China is used to water crops, and affects spices and grains imported into the West.
  • Food and Products. Toxins, especially heavy metals, are regularly found in imported products, including sweets and candies, makeup, school supplies and more. Food for toddlers and babies often test above regulatory standards for lead, cadmium and arsenic.

Children are most at risk. There has been a rapid increase in noncommunicable diseases among children in recent decades, including diabetes, birth defects, autism spectrum disorder, leukemia, and more, a development that medical experts are calling a “silent epidemic.” Most of those diseases are expected to be the result of environmental exposures.

The solution is to prevent pollution at its source by using cleaner fuels, installing wastewater treatment plants for effluents, using safe production techniques and upgrading toxic informal work practices. These solutions are usually cost effective and often have the added benefit of stemming climate change and improving local economies.

Download the full report at  https://www.pureearth.org/pollution-knows-no-borders/ .

Read the full press release, access infographics and interactive data visualizations  here .

Demand action by signing a petition urging world leaders to prioritize pollution control at the source, protect children’s health, and increase funding for pollution cleanup.

Interviews are available upon request with speakers and authors.

About Pure Earth

Pure Earth is an international non-profit organization dedicated to solving pollution problems in low and middle-income countries, where human health is at risk. www.pureearth.org

Contact information

Angela Bernhardt, Pure Earth angela@pureearth.org
Mag Sim, Pure Earth mag@pureearth.org
Tel: +1 212 870 3490

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