Approaches to systematic assessment of environmental exposures posed at hazardous waste sites in the developing world: the Toxic Sites Identification Program


In 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.

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Blacksmith Institute


Toxic Sites Identification Program


Hazard ranking system


Initial site screening


Intellectual quotient


Key pollutant


Nongovernmental organization


Short Message Service


US Environmental Protection Agency


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The Toxic Sites Identification Program is supported by the European Commission, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Green Cross Switzerland, and the Asian Development Bank. Dr. Caravanos serves on the Technical Advisory Board to the Blacksmith Institute. Dr. Philip Landrigan serves without compensation on the Blacksmith Advisory Board, as well as its Technical Advisory Board.

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Correspondence to Kevin Chatham-Stephens.

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Ericson, B., Caravanos, J., Chatham-Stephens, K. et al. Approaches to systematic assessment of environmental exposures posed at hazardous waste sites in the developing world: the Toxic Sites Identification Program. Environ Monit Assess 185, 1755–1766 (2013).

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  • Hazardous waste sites
  • Developing world
  • Risk assessment
  • Children's health