Clinical Professor of Environmental Public Health Sciences
For Dr. Jack Caravanos, life in the field ranges from jumping onto a motorcycle and navigating the jungles of Madre de Dios in the Peruvian Amazon studying toxic substances to traveling to remotes areas in Zambia, Indonesia, and Bolivia studying lead and other toxic wastes. By cooperating with local governments, his work provides safe, healthy, and evidence-based solutions for pollution problems in low- and middle-income countries.
In partnership with Pure Earth, an international non-profit organization, Dr. Caravanos is studying the impact of gold extraction with mercury in Peru and Indonesia. Since miners are in danger of mercury poisoning, his research team is planning interventions that teach safer techniques for gold extraction. In Kabwe, Zambia - a mining town with exposure to lead - his research will provide methods to institute safer mining practices and policy recommendations to improve environmental remediation laws.
Dr. Caravanos teaches Environmental Health for graduate students and Environmental Health in a Global World for undergraduate students. He also provides opportunities for student researchers in his ongoing projects, including in Indonesia (mercury) and Ghana (e-waste).
To learn more about Dr. Caravanos and his work, visit his website.
BS, Health Science, Hunter College, New York, NYMS, Environmental Health Engineering, New York University, New York, NYDrPH, Environmental Health, Columbia University, New York, NY
Presidential Award for Excellence in Community Service, Hunter College (2013)Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, Hunter College (2006)
Artisanal Gold MiningDissemination and Implementation of Evidence-based ProgramsEnvironmental Public Health ServicesGlobal HealthLead poisoning
Assessment of the prevalence of lead-based paint exposure risk in Jakarta, IndonesiaEricson, B., Hariojati, N., Susilorini, B., Crampe, L. F., Fuller, R., Taylor, M. P., & Caravanos, J.
Journal titleScience of the Total Environment
Page(s)1382-1388While lead-based paint has been banned for use in residential settings in most high-income countries, it remains commonly available in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Despite its continued availability, little is known about the specific exposure risk posed by lead-based paint in LMICs. To address this knowledge gap, an assessment of home and preschool dust and paint was carried out in Greater Jakarta, Indonesia. A team of investigators used field portable X-ray Fluorescence (pXRF) to measure 1574 painted surfaces for the presence of lead (mg/cm2) and collected 222 surface dust wipe samples for lead loading (μg/m2) from 103 homes and 19 preschools across 13 different neighborhoods of Jakarta. The assessment found that 2.7% (n = 42) of pXRF measurements and 0.05% (n = 1) of dust wipe samples exceeded the commonly applied USEPA guideline values for paint (1 mg/cm2) and dust (floors: 431 μg/m2; window sills: 2691 μg/m2). Thus, contrary to expectations the locations analyzed in Greater Jakarta showed that exposure risk to lead-based paint appears low. Further study is required in other settings to confirm the findings here. Precautionary measures, such as the proposed ban on lead-based paint, should be taken to prevent the significant social and economic costs associated with lead exposure.
A meta-analysis of blood lead levels in India and the attributable burden of diseaseEricson, B., Dowling, R., Dey, S., Caravanos, J., Mishra, N., Fisher, S., Ramirez, M., Sharma, P., McCartor, A., Guin, P., Taylor, M. P., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleEnvironment International
Page(s)461-470Multiple studies in India have found elevated blood lead levels (BLLs) in target populations. However the data have not yet been evaluated to understand population-wide exposure levels. We used arithmetic mean blood lead data published from 2010 to 2018 on Indian populations to calculate the average BLLs for multiple subgroups. We then calculated the attributable disease burden in IQ decrement and Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). Our Pubmed search yielded 1066 articles. Of these, 31 studies representing the BLLs of 5472 people in 9 states met our study criteria. Evaluating these, we found a mean BLL of 6.86 μg/dL (95% CI: 4.38–9.35) in children and 7.52 μg/dL (95% CI: 5.28–9.76) in non-occupationally exposed adults. We calculated that these exposures resulted in 4.9 million DALYs (95% CI: 3.9–5.6) in the states we evaluated. Population-wide BLLs in India remain elevated despite regulatory action to eliminate leaded petrol, the most significant historical source. The estimated attributable disease burden is larger than previously calculated, particularly with regard to associated intellectual disability outcomes in children. Larger population-wide BLL studies are required to inform future calculations. Policy responses need to be developed to mitigate the worst exposures.
Pollution and global health – An agenda for preventionLandrigan, P. J., Fuller, R., Hu, H., Caravanos, J., Cropper, M. L., Hanrahan, D., Sandilya, K., Chiles, T. C., Kumar, P., & Suk, W. A.
Journal titleEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue8SUMMARY: Pollution is a major, overlooked, global health threat that was responsible in 2015 for an estimated 9 million deaths and great economic losses. To end neglect of pollution and advance prevention of pollution-related disease, we formed the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. Despite recent gains in understanding of pollution and its health effects, this Commission noted that large gaps in knowledge remain. To close these gaps and guide prevention, the Commission made research recommendations and proposed creation of a Global Observatory on Pollution and Health. We posit that successful pollution research will be translational and based on transdisciplinary collaborations among exposure science, epidemiology, data science, engineering, health policy, and economics. We envision that the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health will be a multinational consortium based at Boston College and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that will aggregate, geocode, and archive data on pollution and pollution-related disease; analyze these data to discern trends, geographic patterns, and opportunities for intervention; and make its findings available to policymakers, the media, and the global public to catalyze research, inform policy, and assist cities and countries to target pollution, track progress, and save lives.
Prevention-intervention strategies to reduce exposure to e-wasteHeacock, M., Trottier, B., Adhikary, S., Asante, K. A., Basu, N., Brune, M. N., Caravanos, J., Carpenter, D., Cazabon, D., Chakraborty, P., Chen, A., Barriga, F. D., Ericson, B., Fobil, J., Haryanto, B., Huo, X., Joshi, T. K., Landrigan, P., Lopez, A., Magalini, F., Navasumrit, P., Pascale, A., Sambandam, S., Aslia Kamil, U. S., Sly, L., Sly, P., Suk, A., Suraweera, I., Tamin, R., Vicario, E., & Suk, W.
Journal titleReviews on Environmental Health
Page(s)219-228As one of the largest waste streams, electronic waste (e-waste) production continues to grow in response to global demand for consumer electronics. This waste is often shipped to developing countries where it is disassembled and recycled. In many cases, e-waste recycling activities are conducted in informal settings with very few controls or protections in place for workers. These activities involve exposure to hazardous substances such as cadmium, lead, and brominated flame retardants and are frequently performed by women and children. Although recycling practices and exposures vary by scale and geographic region, we present case studies of e-waste recycling scenarios and intervention approaches to reduce or prevent exposures to the hazardous substances in e-waste that may be broadly applicable to diverse situations. Drawing on parallels identified in these cases, we discuss the future prevention and intervention strategies that recognize the difficult economic realities of informal e-waste recycling.
Characterization and risk of exposure to elements from artisanal gold mining operations in the Bolivian AndesPavilonis, B., Grassman, J., Johnson, G., Diaz, Y., & Caravanos, J.
Journal titleEnvironmental Research
Page(s)1-9Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) offers low-skilled workers an opportunity to elevate themselves out of poverty. However, this industry operates with little to no pollution controls and the cost to the environment and human health can be large. The objectives of this study were to measure levels of arsenic (As), manganese (Mn), cobalt (Co), lead (Pb), and mercury (Hg) in the environment and characterize health risks to miners and residents in an area with active ASGM operations. An exposure assessment was conducted at two different mining sites and a nearby village in the Bolivian Anders. The resulting measurements were then used to quantify cancerous and noncancerous health risks to children and adults working at and living near ASGM areas. Soil concentrations of As were well above background levels and showed great variations between the village and mining area. Mercury vapor levels at the two mining sites were approximately 30 times larger than the EPA reference concentration. The risk of developing non-cancerous health effects were primarily due to exposure to As and Hg. The probability of individuals developing cancer was considerably increased with adult miners having a probability of 1.3 out of 100. Cancer potential was driven by exposure to As, with de minimus cancer risk from all other elements. Based on the environmental characterization of elements in soils and Hg vapors, the risk of developing cancerous and non-cancerous health outcomes were above a level of concern based on EPA risk assessment guidance. Personal protective equipment was not worn by workers and Hg amalgam is commonly heated in workers’ homes. Better education of the risks of ASGM is needed as well as simple controls to reduce exposure.
Geo-Spatial Characterization of Soil Mercury and Arsenic at a High-Altitude Bolivian Gold MineJohnson, G. D., Pavilonis, B., Caravanos, J., & Grassman, J.
Journal titleBulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Page(s)1-6Soil mercury concentrations at a typical small-scale mine site in the Bolivian Andes were elevated (28–737 mg/kg or ppm) in localized areas where mercury amalgams were either formed or vaporized to release gold, but was not detectable beyond approximately 10 m from its sources. Arsenic was measurable, exceeding known background levels throughout the mine site (77–137,022 ppm), and was also measurable through the local village of Ingenio (36–1803 ppm). Although arsenic levels were high at all surveyed locations, its spatial pattern followed mercury, being highest where mercury was high.
Lead intoxicated children in Kabwe, ZambiaBose-O’Reilly, S., Yabe, J., Makumba, J., Schutzmeier, P., Ericson, B., & Caravanos, J.
Journal titleEnvironmental ResearchKabwe is a lead contaminated mining town in Zambia. Kabwe has extensive lead contaminated soil and children in Kabwe ingest and inhale high quantities of this toxic dust. The aim of this paper is to analyze the health impact of this exposure for children. Health data from three existing studies were re-analyzed. Over 95% of children living in the most affected townships had high blood lead levels (BLLs) > 10. μg/dL. Approximately 50% of those children had BLLs ≥ 45. μg/dL. The existing data clearly establishes the presence of a severe environmental health crisis in Kabwe which warrants immediate attention.
Burden of disease resulting from lead exposure at toxic waste sites in Argentina, Mexico and UruguayCaravanos, J., Carrelli, J., Dowling, R., Pavilonis, B., Ericson, B., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue1Background: Though lead contaminated waste sites have been widely researched in many high-income countries, their prevalence and associated health outcomes have not been well documented in low- and middle-income countries. Methods: Using the well-established health metric disability-adjusted life year (DALY) and an exposure assessment method developed by Chatham-Stephens et al., we estimated the burden of disease resulting from exposure to lead at toxic waste sites in three Latin American countries in 2012: Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay. Toxic waste sites identified through Pure Earth's Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP) were screened for lead in both biological and environmental sample media. Estimates of cardiovascular disease incidence and other outcomes resulting from exposure to lead were utilized to estimate DALYs for each population at risk. Results: Approximately 316,703 persons in three countries were at risk of exposure to pollutants at 129 unique sites identified through the TSIP database. Exposure to lead was estimated to result in between 51,432 and 115,042 DALYs, depending on the weighting factor used. The estimated burden of disease caused by exposure to lead in this analysis is comparable to that estimated for Parkinson's disease and bladder cancer in these countries. Conclusions: Lead continues to pose a significant public health risk in Argentina, Mexico, and Uruguay. The burden of disease in these three countries is comparable with other widely recognized public health challenges. Knowledge of the relatively high number of DALYs associated with lead exposure may be used to generate support and funding for the remediation of toxic waste sites in these countries and others.
Estimating the Prevalence of Toxic Waste Sites in Low- and Middle-Income CountriesDowling, R., Caravanos, J., Grigsby, P., Rivera, A., Ericson, B., Amoyaw-Osei, Y., Akuffo, B., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleAnnals of Global Health
Page(s)700-710Background Exposure to heavy metals at contaminated industrial and mining sites, known also as hot spots, is a significant source of toxic exposure and adverse health outcomes in countries around the world. The Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP) developed by Pure Earth, a New York–based nongovernmental organization, is the only systematic effort to catalogue contaminated sites globally. To date, TSIP has identified and catalogued 3282 sites in low- and middle-income countries. The TSIP methodology is not designed to survey all contaminated sites in a country. Rather sites are prioritized based on their perceived impact on human health, and only a limited number of the most highly hazardous sites are surveyed. The total number of contaminated sites globally and the fraction of contaminated sites captured by TSIP is not known. Objective To determine the TSIP site capture rate, the fraction of contaminated sites in a country catalogued by TSIP. Methods Ghana was selected for this analysis because it is a rapidly industrializing lower middle income country with a heterogeneous industrial base, a highly urban population (51%), and good public records systems. To develop an estimate of the fraction of sites in Ghana captured by TSIP, assessors targeted randomly selected geographic quadrats for comprehensive assessment using area and population statistics from the Ghana Statistical Service. Investigators physically walked all accessible streets in each quadrat to visually identify all sites. Visual identification was supplemented by field-based confirmation with portable x-ray fluorescence instruments to test soils for metals. To extrapolate from survey findings to develop a range of estimates for the entire country, the investigators used 2 methodologies: a “bottom-up” approach that first estimated the number of waste sites in each region and then summed these regional subtotals to develop a total national estimate; and a “top-down” method that estimated the total number of sites in Ghana and then allocated these sites to each region. Both methods used cluster random sampling principles. Findings The investigators identified 72 sites in the sampled quadrats. Extrapolating from these findings to the entire country, the first methodology estimated that there are 1561 sites contaminated by heavy metals in Ghana (confidence interval [CI]: 1134-1987), whereas the second estimated 1944 sites (CI: 812-3075). The estimated total number of contaminated sites in Ghana is thus 7-9 times the number of sites captured through TSIP. On a population basis, it was estimated that there are between 31 and 115 contaminated sites per million inhabitants in Ghana. Conclusions The findings of this study indicate that the TSIP methodology provides a sound statistical basis for policy formulation. The statistical approaches used in this study can be replicated in other countries to improve estimates of the prevalence of contaminated sites. This information provides important input to calculations of the global burden of disease attributable to hazardous exposures at contaminated sites.
Estimating the prevalence of toxic waste sites in low- and middle-income countries: a Ghanaian case studyDowling, R., Caravanos, J., & Ericson, B.
Journal titleEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
The Global Burden of Lead Toxicity Attributable to Informal Used Lead-Acid Battery SitesEricson, B., Landrigan, P., Taylor, M. P., Frostad, J., Caravanos, J., Keith, J., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleAnnals of Global HealthBackground: Prior calculations of the burden of disease from environmental lead exposure in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have not included estimates of the burden from lead-contaminated sites because of a lack of exposure data, resulting in an underestimation of a serious public health problem. Objective: We used publicly available statistics and detailed site assessment data to model the number of informal used lead-acid battery (ULAB) recyclers and the resulting exposures in 90 LMICs. We estimated blood lead levels (BLLs) using the US Environment Protection Agency's Integrated Exposure Uptake Biokinetic Model for Lead in Children and Adult Lead Model. Finally, we used data and algorithms generated by the World Health Organization to calculate the number of attributable disability adjusted life years (DALYs). Results: We estimated that there are 10,599 to 29,241 informal ULAB processing sites where human health is at risk in the 90 countries we reviewed. We further estimated that 6 to 16.8 million people are exposed at these sites and calculate a geometric mean BLL for exposed children (0-4 years of age) of 31.15 μg/dL and a geometric mean BLL for adults of 21.2 μg/dL. We calculated that these exposures resulted in 127,248 to 1,612,476 DALYs in 2013. Conclusions: Informal ULAB processing is currently causing widespread lead poisoning in LMICs. There is an urgent need to identify and mitigate exposures at existing sites and to develop appropriate policy responses to minimize the creation of new sites.
The prevalence of toxic hotspots in former Soviet countriesSharov, P., Dowling, R., Gogishvili, M., Jones, B., Caravanos, J., McCartor, A., Kashdan, Z., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleEnvironmental Pollution
Page(s)346-353Using a global database of contaminated sites, toxic hotspots in eight former Soviet countries were analyzed to identify the prevalence, types and sources of toxic pollution, as well as their associated potential public health impacts. For this analysis, polluted sites in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan were compiled and analyzed. The levels of contamination of seven key pollutants were assessed in each country. 424 contaminated sites were identified using data from Blacksmith Institute. Pesticides, lead (Pb), radioactive metals, arsenic (As), mercury (Hg), chromium (Cr), and cadmium (Cd) were the most commonly identified key pollutants. Collectively, these sites pose health risks to an estimated 6.2 million residents. The existing data on toxic hotspots in former Soviet countries likely captures only a small percentage of actual contaminated sites, but suggests potentially severe public health consequences. Additional assessments are needed to understand the risks posed by toxic pollution in the region.
Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks in 188 countries, 1990-2013: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013Failed generating bibliography.Abstract
Journal titleThe Lancet
Page(s)2287-2323Background: The Global Burden of Disease, Injuries, and Risk Factor study 2013 (GBD 2013) is the first of a series of annual updates of the GBD. Risk factor quantification, particularly of modifiable risk factors, can help to identify emerging threats to population health and opportunities for prevention. The GBD 2013 provides a timely opportunity to update the comparative risk assessment with new data for exposure, relative risks, and evidence on the appropriate counterfactual risk distribution. Methods: Attributable deaths, years of life lost, years lived with disability, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) have been estimated for 79 risks or clusters of risks using the GBD 2010 methods. Risk-outcome pairs meeting explicit evidence criteria were assessed for 188 countries for the period 1990-2013 by age and sex using three inputs: risk exposure, relative risks, and the theoretical minimum risk exposure level (TMREL). Risks are organised into a hierarchy with blocks of behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks at the first level of the hierarchy. The next level in the hierarchy includes nine clusters of related risks and two individual risks, with more detail provided at levels 3 and 4 of the hierarchy. Compared with GBD 2010, six new risk factors have been added: handwashing practices, occupational exposure to trichloroethylene, childhood wasting, childhood stunting, unsafe sex, and low glomerular filtration rate. For most risks, data for exposure were synthesised with a Bayesian metaregression method, DisMod-MR 2.0, or spatial-temporal Gaussian process regression. Relative risks were based on meta-regressions of published cohort and intervention studies. Attributable burden for clusters of risks and all risks combined took into account evidence on the mediation of some risks such as high body-mass index (BMI) through other risks such as high systolic blood pressure and high cholesterol. Findings: All risks combined account for 57·2% (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 55·8-58·5) of deaths and 41·6% (40·1-43·0) of DALYs. Risks quantified account for 87·9% (86·5-89·3) of cardiovascular disease DALYs, ranging to a low of 0% for neonatal disorders and neglected tropical diseases and malaria. In terms of global DALYs in 2013, six risks or clusters of risks each caused more than 5% of DALYs: dietary risks accounting for 11·3 million deaths and 241·4 million DALYs, high systolic blood pressure for 10·4 million deaths and 208·1 million DALYs, child and maternal malnutrition for 1·7 million deaths and 176·9 million DALYs, tobacco smoke for 6·1 million deaths and 143·5 million DALYs, air pollution for 5·5 million deaths and 141·5 million DALYs, and high BMI for 4·4 million deaths and 134·0 million DALYs. Risk factor patterns vary across regions and countries and with time. In sub-Saharan Africa, the leading risk factors are child and maternal malnutrition, unsafe sex, and unsafe water, sanitation, and handwashing. In women, in nearly all countries in the Americas, north Africa, and the Middle East, and in many other high-income countries, high BMI is the leading risk factor, with high systolic blood pressure as the leading risk in most of Central and Eastern Europe and south and east Asia. For men, high systolic blood pressure or tobacco use are the leading risks in nearly all high-income countries, in north Africa and the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. For men and women, unsafe sex is the leading risk in a corridor from Kenya to South Africa. Interpretation: Behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks can explain half of global mortality and more than one-third of global DALYs providing many opportunities for prevention. Of the larger risks, the attributable burden of high BMI has increased in the past 23 years. In view of the prominence of behavioural risk factors, behavioural and social science research on interventions for these risks should be strengthened. Many prevention and primary care policy options are available now to act on key risks.
Protecting communities by remediating polluted sites worldwideHanrahan, D., Ericson, B., & Caravanos, J.
Journal titleProceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Civil Engineering
Page(s)33-40Millions of people worldwide are suffering health risks as a result of living near highly contaminated sites including abandoned industrial and mining sites, and polluting artisanal areas. More than 3000 sites across 50 developing countries have been identified. Nearly 100 million people are at risk at just these sites. The main impact falls on people in low- and middle-income countries, with children being particularly vulnerable. Interventions have been implemented at about 100 of these sites, with significant success in reducing impacts. This paper aims to draw the attention of practising engineers to the scale and impacts of the problem and to encourage expanded efforts to implement cost-effective solutions. Tackling contaminated sites is part of broader efforts under the umbrella of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution to reduce environmental pollution, which is one of the largest contributors to the burden of disease worldwide. Clean-up is required but prevention of pollution must also be a high priority.
Spatial associations between contaminated land and socio demographics in GhanaDowling, R., Ericson, B., Caravanos, J., Grigsby, P., & Amoyaw-Osei, Y.
Journal titleInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Page(s)13587-13601Associations between contaminated land and socio demographics are well documented in high-income countries. In low- and middle-income countries, however, little is known about the extent of contaminated land and possible demographic correlations. This is an important yet sparsely researched topic with potentially significant public health implications as exposure to pollution remains a leading source of morbidity and mortality in low-income countries. In this study, we review the associations between several socio demographic factors (population, population density, unemployment, education, and literacy) and contaminated sites in Ghana. Within this context, both correlation and association intend to show the relationship between two variables, namely contaminated sites and socio demographics. Aggregated district level 2010 census data from Ghana Statistical Service and contaminated site location data from Pure Earth’s Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP) were spatially evaluated using the number of sites per kilometer squared within districts as the unit of measurement. We found a low to medium positive correlation (ρ range: 0.285 to 0.478) between contaminated sites and the following socio demographics: higher population density, higher unemployment, greater education, and higher literacy rate. These results support previous studies and suggest that several socio demographic factors may be reasonably accurate predictors of contaminated site locations. More research and targeted data collection is needed to better understand these associations with the ultimate goal of developing a predictive model.
Case 2: Hurricane Sandy: training to improve response and recoveryGotch,, Rosen,, & Caravanos, J.
Comparison of burden of disease from toxic waste sites with other recognized public health threats in India, Indonesia and the PhilippinesCaravanos, J., Gutierrez-Hernandez, L., Ericson, B., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleJournal of Health and Pollution
The pediatric burden of disease from lead exposure at toxic waste sites in low and middle income countriesChatham-Stephens, K., Caravanos, J., Ericson, B., Landrigan, P., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleEnvironmental Research
Page(s)379-383Background: The impact of lead from toxic waste sites on children in low and middle income countries has not been calculated due to a lack of exposure data. We sought to calculate this impact in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). Materials and methods: Using an Integrated Exposure Uptake Biokinetic (IEUBK) model, we converted soil and drinking water lead levels from sites in the Blacksmith Institute[U+05F3]s Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP) into mean blood lead levels (BLLs). We then calculated the incidence of mild mental retardation (MMR) and DALYs resulting from these BLLs. Results: The TSIP included 200 sites in 31 countries with soil (n=132) or drinking water (n=68) lead levels, representing 779,989 children younger than 4 years of age potentially exposed to lead. Environmental lead levels produced a range of BLLs from 1.56 to 104.71. μg/dL. These BLLs equated to an estimated loss of 5.41-8.23 IQ points, resulting in an incidence of MMR of 6.03 per 1000 population and 76.1 DALYs per 1000 population. Discussion: Soil and water lead levels at toxic waste sites predict BLLs that lower the intelligence quotient (IQ), with the resulting MMR potentially limiting individual- and country-level development. The preventable burden of disease produced by these sites highlights the need for toxic waste sites to be systematically identified, evaluated, and remediated.
Approaches to systematic assessment of environmental exposures posed at hazardous waste sites in the developing world: The Toxic Sites Identification ProgramEricson, B., Caravanos, J., Chatham-Stephens, K., Landrigan, P., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Page(s)1755-1766In the developing world, environmental chemical exposures due to hazardous waste sites are poorly documented. We describe the approach taken by the Blacksmith Institute's Toxic Sites Identification Program in documenting environmental chemical exposures due to hazardous waste sites globally, identifying sites of concern and quantifying pathways, populations, and severity of exposure. A network of local environmental investigators was identified and trained to conduct hazardous waste site investigations and assessments. To date, 2,095 contaminated sites have been identified within 47 countries having an estimated population at risk of 71,500,000. Trained researchers and investigators have visited 1,400 of those sites. Heavy metals are the leading primary exposures, with water supply and ambient air being the primary routes of exposure. Even though chemical production has occurred largely in the developed world to date, many hazardous waste sites in the developing world pose significant hazards to the health of large portions of the population. Further research is needed to quantify potential health and economic consequences and identify cost-effective approaches to remediation.
Assessing levels of lead contamination in soil and predicating pediatric blood lead levels in Tema, GhanaKwame-Aboh, I., Sampson, M., Atiemo, M., Nyaab, M., Abra-Kom, L., Caravanos, J., & Kuranchie-Mensah, H.
Journal titleJournal of Health and Pollution
Burden of disease from toxic waste sites in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines in 2010Chatham-Stephens, K., Caravanos, J., Ericson, B., Sunga-Amparo, J., Susilorini, B., Sharma, P., Landrigan, P. J., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Page(s)791-796Background: Prior calculations of the burden of disease from toxic exposures have not included estimates of the burden from toxic waste sites due to the absence of exposure data. Objective: We developed a disability-adjusted life year (DALY)-based estimate of the disease burden attributable to toxic waste sites. We focused on three low- and middle-income countries (LMICs): India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Methods: Sites were identified through the Blacksmith Institute's Toxic Sites Identification Program, a global effort to identify waste sites in LMICs. At least one of eight toxic chemicals was sampled in environmental media at each site, and the population at risk estimated. By combining estimates of disease incidence from these exposures with population data, we calculated the DALYs attributable to exposures at each site. Results: We estimated that in 2010, 8,629,750 persons were at risk of exposure to industrial pollutants at 373 toxic waste sites in the three countries, and that these exposures resulted in 828,722 DALYs, with a range of 814,934-1,557,121 DALYs, depending on the weighting factor used. This disease burden is comparable to estimated burdens for outdoor air pollution (1,448,612 DALYs) and malaria (725,000 DALYs) in these countries. Lead and hexavalent chromium collectively accounted for 99.2% of the total DALYs for the chemicals evaluated. Conclusions: Toxic waste sites are responsible for a significant burden of disease in LMICs. Although some factors, such as unidentified and unscreened sites, may cause our estimate to be an underestimate of the actual burden of disease, other factors, such as extrapolation of environmental sampling to the entire exposed population, may result in an overestimate of the burden of disease attributable to these sites. Toxic waste sites are a major, and heretofore underrecognized, global health problem.
Childhood blood lead reductions following removal of leaded ceramic glazes in artisanal pottery production: a success storyJones, D., Perez, M., Ericson, B., Sanchez, D., Gualtero, S., Smith-Jones, A., & Caravanos, J.
Journal titleJournal of Health and Pollution
Exploratory health assessment of chemical exposures at an e-waste recycling and scrapyard facility in Accra, GhanaCaravanos, J., Clarke, E., Osei, C., & Amoyaw-Osei, Y.
Journal titleJournal of Health and Pollution
Rapid assessment of environmental health risks posed by mining operations in low- and middle-income countries: Selected case studiesCaravanos, J., Ericson, B., Ponce-Canchihuamán, J., Hanrahan, D., Block, M., Susilorini, B., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Page(s)7711-7718Previous studies have evaluated associated health risks and human exposure pathways at mining sites. Others have provided estimates of the scale of the issue based in part on surveys. However, a global census of mining-related hazardous waste sites has been lacking. The Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP) implemented by Blacksmith Institute (New York, NY, USA) since 2009 is an ongoing effort to catalogue a wide range of chemically contaminated sites with a potential human health risk (Ericson et al., Environ Monit Assess doi:10.1007/s 10661-012-2665-2, 2012). The TSIP utilizes a rapid assessment instrument, the Initial Site Screening (ISS), to quickly and affordably identify key site criteria including human exposure pathways, estimated populations at risk, and sampling information. The resulting ISS allows for comparison between sites exhibiting different contaminants and pollution sources. This paper explores the results of a subset of ISSs completed at 131 artisanal and small-scale gold mining areas and 275 industrial mining and ore processing sites in 45 countries. The authors show that the ISS captures key data points, allowing for prioritization of sites for further investigation or remedial activity.
The burden of disease from pediatric lead exposure at hazardous waste sites in 7 Asian countriesCaravanos, J., Chatham-Stephens, K., Ericson, B., Landrigan, P. J., & Fuller, R.
Journal titleEnvironmental Research
Page(s)119-125Identification and systematic assessment of hazardous wastes sites in low and middle-income countries has lagged. Hazardous waste problems are especially severe in lower income Asian countries where environmental regulations are non-existent, nonspecific or poorly enforced. In these countries extensive unregulated industrial development has created waste sites in densely populated urban areas. These sites appear to pose significant risks to public health, and especially to the health of children.To assess potential health risks from chemical contamination at hazardous waste sites in Asia, we assessed 679 sites. A total of 169 sites in 7 countries were classified as contaminated by lead. Eighty-two of these sites contained lead at levels high enough to produce elevated blood lead levels in surrounding populations.To estimate the burden of pediatric lead poisoning associated with exposure to lead in soil and water at these 82 lead-contaminated sites, we used standard toxicokinetic models that relate levels of lead in soil and water to blood lead levels in children. We calculated blood lead levels, and we quantified losses of intelligence (reductions in IQ scores) that were attributable to lead exposure at these sites.We found that 189,725 children in the 7 countries are at risk of diminished intelligence as a consequence of exposure to elevated levels of lead in water and soil at hazardous waste sites. Depending on choice of model, these decrements ranged from 4.94 to 14.96 IQ points. Given the restricted scope of this survey and the conservative estimation procedures employed, this number is almost certainly an underestimate of the full burden of disease.Exposure to toxic chemicals from hazardous waste sites is an important and heretofore insufficiently examined contributor to the Global Burden of Disease.