Environmental Pollution - Download Now PDF

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					                                                                                                                          A. Boischio
                i n t e r n a t i o n a l   d e v e l o p m e n t        r e s e a r c h     c e n t r e

                Ecohealth Works
É. Pinard
O. Betancourt

                                  Environmental Pollution
                                  Environmental pollutants from many different sources
                                  contaminate water, air, and land, putting humans and
                                  ecosystems at risk, and often pitting people against industry.
                                  By viewing competing interests and their implications within a
                                  broad ecosystem analysis, ecohealth approaches strive to protect
                                  health while balancing the needs of various stakeholders and
                                  contributing to safeguarding the ecosystem.

                                  The challenge                                          Humans are paying the price of these pollut-
                                                                                         ants on many levels: from direct harm to health
                                  Worldwide, thousands of different types of             through cancer, neurological impairment, and
                                  chemicals pose serious risks to human and              other ailments, to contamination of the food
                                  ecosystems’ health. Populations in develop-            chain and the failing capacity of ecosystems
                                  ing countries are especially at risk because of        to absorb wastes and provide the essentials
                                  often inadequate knowledge, lack of appropriate        for life. These complex and urgent problems
                                  regulation and enforcement as well as barriers         require innovative, flexible, and action-oriented
                                  to accessing “cleaner” technologies. People often      approaches to finding solutions.
                                  have little capacity to protect themselves and
                                  their voices are not heard in political discussions.   WhaT’s happening?
                                  Economic development is clearly essential for          Responding to the challenge, the International
                                  communities’ livelihoods and the well-being of         Development Research Centre (IDRC) supports
                                  nations, but is often a source of harmful envi-        ecohealth research and networks to develop
                                  ronmental pollution. Everyday human activities         sustainable responses to environmental pollu-
                                  such as cooking, heating, and transportation also      tion. Ecohealth projects generate sound scientific
                                  produce pollutants. The poor and underprivi-           knowledge and build capacity of local research-
                                  leged are especially vulnerable.                       ers and communities, while seeking to influence
      i n t e r n a t i o n a l                               d e v e l o p m e n t       r e s e a r c h    c e n t r e

                                                    policies to effectively improve human health and     populations to be exposed, through their
                                                    protect developing country communities from          consumption of fish, to mercury released by
                                                    environmental pollution. Projects in Mexico,         upstream mining activities. In the Amazon,
                      A. Jazcilevich and C. Siebe

                                                    Ecuador, and India illustrate such achievements.     previous IDRC-funded research had dem-
                                                                                                         onstrated that naturally occurring mercury
                                                    GeneratinG knowledGe
                                                                                                         is released from the soil by erosion following
                                                    IDRC-supported researchers have successfully
                                                    applied ecohealth approaches across the devel-       deforestation, and is then washed into the
                                                    oping world to produce knowledge to a number         river, where it is transformed into toxic methyl
                                                    of environmental pollution issues.                   mercury, which accumulates in the aquatic food
                                                                                                         chain. But this was not observed in the Puyango
In Molango, researchers                             Making the links between manganese pollu-            River. The study documented that workers in
measured atmospheric                                tion and neurological impairment in Mexico           gold ore processing plants upstream were the
manganese stirred up by
                                                    In the district of Molango, Mexico, rich natural     ones being exposed to mercury through the
truck traffic.
                                                    deposits of manganese have been mined since          amalgamation and burning processes.
                                                    the 1960s. Relationships between the mining
                                                    company and surrounding communities have             Water and fish consumption in downstream
                                                    deteriorated over time as local populations expe-    communities were associated with nervous sys-
                                                    rienced lower production from their traditional      tem and learning problems. Rather than being
                                                    agricultural livelihoods and attributed them to      caused by mercury poisoning, these problems
                                                    dust and smoke emissions from the mines. Many        could be linked to lead and manganese present
                                                    families blamed the company for their polluted       in the river. The study investigated other sources
                                                    environment and health problems.                     of lead exposure. Again, upstream ore-smelting
                                                                                                         industries were implicated as an exposure source
                                                    In 2002, a team of ecohealth researchers began       for workers, as well as the use of cooking pots
                                                    a study of the transport of manganese through        made of metal alloys containing lead in both
                                                    different components of the ecosystem and,           upstream and downstream communities. Arse-
                                                    ultimately, its impacts on human health. They        nic was also found in the Puyango River.
                                                    discovered that exposure to contaminated air,
                                                    rather than water or food, was the culprit. They     The research showed that heavy metal pollution
                                                    traced the path of manganese from mine smoke-        of the Puyango River basin was clearly due to
                                                    stacks, through wind and dust, and even from         upstream gold mines. Communities harnessed
                                                    trucking corridors, right into people’s homes.       these results to press decision-makers for action.
                                                    The team showed that exposure to manganese           stone quarry owners in india work
                                                    led to motor skill damage in adults, especially in   to improve environmental conditions
                                                    women. The project further identified nervous        In India’s Madhya Pradesh, stone quarrying
                                                    system risks in children. These findings led to      and crushing provide a much-needed source of
                                                    concrete changes in local policies as explained in   extra cash for local farmers. However, the work
                                                    more detail below.                                   is dusty, noisy, and dangerous. Consequently,
                                                    Mining for knowledge in ecuador                      workers commonly suffer respiratory illnesses,
                                                    In the Puyango River basin in Ecuador, small-        hearing problems, and injuries. Their communi-
                                                    scale gold mining is common. Due to rudimen-         ties are also affected by dust and noise, on top of
                                                    tary technology and lack of regulation, gold         chronically poor nutrition and inadequate access
                                                    mining activities are inefficient, hazardous,        to health services.
                                                    pollute the environment, and contribute to the
                                                                                                         An ecohealth team of researchers worked with
                                                    vulnerability of the population.
                                                                                                         stakeholders to evaluate health risks and develop
                                                    Smelting gold ore releases many toxic heavy          solutions. The team bolstered the capacity
                                                    metals. Researchers first determined upstream        of community health providers to diagnose
                                                    and downstream population exposures to               and monitor respiratory diseases, providing
                                                    mercury and lead. They expected downstream           training and equipment that brought medical
                                                                                                               Ecohealth Works

professionals closer to the community. The plant                  continent. In 2007, the school received more
owners also agreed to use the dust abatement                      than 70 applications for the 20 available spaces.
technology developed by the project team.                         Course organizers are convinced that this huge
                                                                  demand is due to the growing influence of the
“Because stone quarry owners, community
                                                                  region’s community of practice, COPEH-TLAC.
residents, health professionals, youth groups,
regulators, and even policymakers have all been                   influencinG policy
involved in the process, it is quite likely that                  Policy influence is a means of transforming
the impacts of the project will endure and grow                   new knowledge into enduring change. This
many-fold in the near future,” says Dr Kalpana                    can be achieved through the continued
Balakrishnan, who co-led the research with                        engagement of policymakers throughout the
Dr Vijaya Lakshmi. Both researchers believe that                  research process.
the community’s capacity for risk management                      Joint plans to reduce emissions in Mexico
has improved tremendously.                                        In Molango, the manganese research team
BuildinG capacity                                                 and study communities are working with state
IDRC strives to build capacity of local research-                 and health authorities to control exposure and
ers and organizations to generate meaningful                      mitigate health effects. The plan includes paving
results and promote excellence in research. Eco-                  roads to prevent inappropriate use of spent
health projects also seek to empower communi-                     mining ore to resurface local roads, developing      In Madhya Pradesh, the
ties to take charge of their own environment                      strategies to control household dust, establishing   community’s capacity
and health through the research activities.                       more stringent national air quality standards for    for risk management
                                                                  manganese pollution, and monitoring programs         has improved
a community of practice gains momentum                            to ensure compliance.                                tremendously.
in latin america and the caribbean
From an initial membership of 13 scientists in
6 countries in 2006, the Community of Practice
in Ecosystem Health to Reduce Toxic Exposures
in Latin America and the Caribbean (COPEH-
TLAC) grew to more than 120 members in
25 countries in five nodes by 2007. Each node
conducts its own research activities and outreach
programs, while a coordinating group promotes
exchanges between the different regions and
ensures general management of the community
of practice. COPEH-TLAC collaborates with
the Canadian community of practice, sharing
technical and strategic knowledge.
To build its overall capacity for ecohealth
research, the community of practice exchanges
knowledge and techniques through workshops
and conferences, including an ecohealth
summer school in Mexico.
                                                    A. Boischio

increasing demand for ecohealth
courses in Mexico
Since 2002, with support from IDRC, the
National Institute of Public Health (INSP) in
Mexico hosted a summer training program in
ecohealth approaches to human health. There
have been guests lecturers from all over the
                                                                                                                   Ecohealth Works

                                          getting the lead out                                FuTure ecohealTh Work To FighT
                                          In Ecuador, the research team worked with           environMenTal polluTion
                                          municipal authorities and community leaders to
                                          develop policy and an action plan to reduce river   Global economic growth encourages rapid
                                          pollution upstream and population                   industrialization of most developing countries.
                                          exposure downstream.                                Worldwide production of environmental pollut-
                                                                                              ants will continue to rise as demand for con-
                                          The upstream municipalities of Zaruma and           sumer goods and food increases. Climate change
                                          Portovelo have now integrated environment and       will further add pressure on ecosystems already
                                          health management into their strategic plans.       made vulnerable by environmental pollution.
                                          In the two municipalities, the research team        These large-scale forces generate conditions
                                          worked with community leaders and stake-            that limit food, livelihood, and health choices
                                          holders to increase environmental awareness.        for poor households in developing countries.
                                          Ecological youth clubs have been created as part    Ecohealth research contributes to identifying
                                          of several community initiatives. Two isolated      sustainable ways to balance economic and
                                          downstream communities have begun to use            environmental trade-offs while seeking to
                                          sand filters to decrease levels of chemical and     protect human health.
                                          biological water contamination, while another
                In Ecuador, a
                                          community now benefits from a water process-
                member of the                                                                 ecohealth — short for “ecosystem approaches
                ecological youth club
                                          ing plant. In addition, the Ecuadorian govern-
                                          ment has felt pressure to clean up contaminated     to Human Health” — is a research framework that
                explains the impacts of                                                       addresses how human health and environmental
                mining on environment     segments of the river before moving ahead with
                                                                                              quality are determined by complex relationships
                and human health to       a plan to build a dam, jointly with Peru, that
                                                                                              among different components of an ecosystem.
                the community.            would supply water for agriculture.                 it is used to explore how human health can
                                                                                              be protected and improved through more
                                                                                              sustainable ecosystem management. researchers
                                                                                              work across academic disciplines to develop
                                                                                              sustainable solutions that transcend the health
                                                                                              sector. ecohealth approaches help translate
                                                                                              research findings into policy and action. for more
                                                                                              information about the ecohealth program at idrc,
                                                                                              visit www.idrc.ca/ecohealth.
                                                                                              for nearly 40 years, idrc has worked in
                                                                                              close collaboration with researchers from the
                                                                                              developing world in their search for the means
                                                                                              to build healthier, more equitable, and more
                                                                                              prosperous societies.
                                                                                              international development research centre
                                                                                              ecosystem approaches to Human Health program
                                                                                              po Box 8500
O. Betancourt

                                                                                              ottawa, on, canada k1G 3H9
                                                                                              email : ecohealth@idrc.ca

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