Issue

Global Health: Perils of Pollution

In China, an occupational lung disease called pneumoconiosis is killing three times the number of miners dying from mining accidents. In Burkina Faso—Africa’s fourth-largest producer of gold—entire families toil among hazardous machinery and chemicals as they mine. In the Philippines, the smallest (and youngest) workers shrink down into crevices, risking their lives to carry out underwater compressor mining.

It has long been common knowledge that pollution harms our planet in the long term. But pollution is also a determinant of more immediate health effects, particularly for the world's poorest. As the leading cause of premature deaths around the world, pollution contributes to an estimated one in seven deaths each year, according to the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution. Most of these deaths occur in emerging nations where byproducts of unregulated mining and industrial waste disposal contaminate air, water, soil and ultimately food.

The worst pollutants—lead, mercury, cadmium radium and radioactive isotopes, chromium and pesticides—affect tens of millions of people and are major drivers of chronic diseases and cancers that cut lives short by decades. Air pollution from vehicle exhaust and coal-fired power plants affects millions more in the most congested cities of China, India and Eastern Europe, while indoor charcoal cooking fires are silently killing the poorest of the poor in Africa.

And moreover, consumers seem more complacent than ever to the risks posed by their demands. There are few incentives to foster hazard-free work environments. In fact, whether for our gold jewelry or our advanced electronics, producers need to cut corners in order to provide the goods we want at the prices we like.

This Issues gateway explores the major pollutants and the most polluted sites in the world to examine causes and consequences—and the search for solutions.

The Pulitzer Center's work on pollution and global health issues is supported by grants from Green Cross Switzerland and other generous donors.

Global Health: Perils of Pollution

The Tragedy at Ganshadih

In the tiny Indian village of Ganshadih, women and young girls dodge underground fire to scavenge meager bits of coal from India's largest open-pit mine.

Inside Recycling Smelters on Java

Larry Price offers a rare glimpse inside recycling smelters on the island of Java in Indonesia where operators smelt lead from used batteries with little regard for environmental regulations.

Loretta Tofani Wins Michael Kelly Award

Loretta Tofani has won the 2008 Michael Kelly Award for her series "American Imports, Chinese Deaths."

The $25,000 award "honors a writer or editor whose work exemplifies a quality that animated Michael Kelly's career: the fearless pursuit and expression of truth." (Michael Kelly Award Press Release) Tofani was chosen from over 50 journalists for 2007 work published in U.S. newspapers and magazines.

Loretta Tofani Wins Sigma Delta Chi Award for Investigative Reporting

Loretta Tofani won the 2007 Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism for "American Imports, Chinese Deaths" published in The Salt Lake Tribune.

She won in the category of investigative reporting (circulation of 100,000 or greater). This year's winners were chosen by the Society of Professional Journalists from more than 1,000 entries of work published in 2007 in 48 categories including print, radio, television and online. The awards will be presented July 11 during the annual Sigma Delta Chi Awards banquet at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Loretta Tofani Wins IRE Gold Medal

Loretta Tofani's "American Imports, Chinese Deaths" series was awarded the 2007 Investigative Reporters and Editors' Gold Medal for medium sized newspapers.

Loretta Tofani interviews with the Washington Observer

Editor in Chief Lily Chen interviews Pulitzer Center grant-recipient Loretta Tofani about her "American Imports, Chinese Deaths" series. January 9, 2008, the Washington Observer (Mandarin Chinese), a World Security Institute publication. Lily interviews Loretta Tofani, an American journalist, about her call for people's attention to Chinese workers' benefits and rights.

Note: This article is in Mandarin Chinese.

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