• The 2010 Toxic  Threat Report highlights the Worst Pollution Problems and Identifies the Top Six Toxic Threats to Global Health

Waste Management

The 2010 Toxic Threat Report highlights the Worst Pollution Problems and Identifies the Top Six Toxic Threats to Global Health

Jan 13 2011

Green Cross Switzerland, the Swiss national organisation of Green Cross International (GCI), and US-based Blacksmith Institute, two independent environmental organisations, present their first ranking of the world’s top six toxic threats. The ranking is included in the jointly issued 2010 Toxic Threat Report.

The health impacts from the top six toxic threats include physical and mental disabilities, organ dysfunction, neurological disorders, cancer and in some cases death. The report also asserts that these pollutants exacerbate other health concerns by weakening the body’s immune system, rendering it more susceptible to disease. According to the report, an initial exposure to toxic pollution can be the undocumented cause of later illnesses, such as respiratory infections, tuberculosis, gastrointestinal disorders, and maternal health problems.

“The global health impact of toxic pollutants such as heavy metals, pesticides and radionuclides is much worse than previously thought. The world community has taken significant steps to fight some of the most serious health threats, such as Malaria and HIV/AIDS. Given the connection between human health and environmental pollution the time has come to take measures and address toxic pollutants that can cause neurological disorders, cancer and death” says Adam Koniuszewski, Green Cross International Chief Operating Officer.

Despite the significant threats and the proven effectiveness of remediation measures, only a fraction of international aid is provided for the clean-ups, the authors of the 2010 Toxic Threat Report argue.

“The health of roughly 100 million people is at risk from pollution in developing countries,“ says Richard Fuller, founder of Blacksmith Institute. “The six pollutants in this report came up again and again at the sites we looked at around the world.” These toxic substances cause serious health risks for up to 100 million people around the world, especially children.

This year’s toxic threat report ranks the pollutants according to the number of people estimated to be at risk from each toxin. It describes their physical nature and the industries that typically cause the release of the toxic substances. The report provides examples from around the world on how human health can be affected by each pollutant.

The 2010 environmental report is based on over 1,000 risk assessments at 600 polluted sites in more than 40 countries, which have been recorded in Blacksmith’s database with the support of Green Cross Switzerland. More than 150 experts have been contracted and trained to carry out the assessment work so far. The top six toxic threats worldwide in 2010 are (ranked according to the size of the population affected):

  • Lead (18 to 22 million people affected worldwide)
  • Mercury (15 to 19 million people affected worldwide)
  • Chromium (13 to 17 million people affected worldwide)
  • Arsenic (5 to 9 million people affected worldwide)
  • Pesticides (5 to 8 million people affected worldwide)
  • Radionuclides (5 to 8 million people affected worldwide)


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