Projects Overview

OK International makes small grants and provides technical assistance to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the developing world to address environmental disease linked to industrial pollution. The success of these projects has attracted significant financial resources for our partners to pursue their objectives. With additional support from OK International, these projects can be replicated to address the same harmful exposures in additional communities. Our work in India, Kosovo, Mozambique, and Peru has helped to build capacity to respond to these issues around the globe.

stone crushing mill

Stone crushing mills have proliferated throughout India to accommodate the huge demand for stone used in road building and construction. Through the efforts of OK International and our Indian partners, air monitoring has determined that exposures to silica are five times the acceptable limit.

Preventing Silicosis Among Stone Crusher Workers

Thousands of poor, often indigenous women and children are exposed to clouds of airborne silica from quarry and stone crushing operations. Many of the most highly exposed are children working and living next to these mills. There is also a high incidence of Tuberculosis (TB) among theses communities, compounding the health impacts of silica exposure.

In partnership with the organizations listed below, OK International is working in the States of Orissa and Karnataka, India to encourage stone crusher mill owners to install pollution control equipment and take precautions to lower occupational exposures to silica. Project activities include outreach in the form of health and safety trainings to mill owners, managers, and workers, and technical training on engineering controls.

In addition to providing training and technical assistance on the dust reducing water spray systems, we are also working with mill owners to demonstrate how rainwater harvesting can supply the water needed for dust suppression equipment.

OK International and Best Practices Foundation conduct a training course with stone crusher mill owners on dust control measures.

A safety manual in the Kannada language has been created as part of this project to educate mill owners and operators about the hazards of silica dust and methods to reduce exposures.

Locations in India:

  • Karnataka, Dharwad Area
  • Orissa, Jajpur District

Partner Organizations:

  • Best Practices Foundation
  • Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP)


OK International conducts a training course in Ho Chi Minh City on reducing lead exposures from battery manufacturing and recycling facilities.

Improving the Lead Battery Industry

The manufacturing of lead batteries in developing and newly industrialized countries, as well as the informal collection and recycling of used lead batteries in unregistered smelters, releases large quantities of lead into the environment. These exposures result in significant health impacts to workers and children in affected communities. The lead battery industry in Asia is growing rapidly yet there are few technical experts in many of these countries working on improving environmental controls for these facilities. To encourage improvements in the lead battery industry, we conduct trainings and outreach in addition to providing technical assistance to battery manufacturers, government agencies, and vehicle manufacturers.
OK International is working cooperatively with the Vietnam Environmental Administration (VEA) to provide technical information on environmental controls, occupational health measures, and management for used batteries. In April 2009, battery manufacturers and government officials attended an intensive two-day training on safe work practices, air monitoring techniques, emissions controls and related topics. We are currently working to introduce third party environmental certification for lead batteries and provide advice on collection policies.

With the implementation of occupational control measures, lead battery manufacturers can reduce exposures in their facilities.

In China, OK International is working with the Vehicle Emission Control Center of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (VECC-MEP) and the China Automotive Technology & Research Center (CATARC), to raise awareness on lead hazards. This cooperation is aimed at encouraging improvements in lead battery manufacturing and recycling practices. A conference organized by OK International and VECC in September 2010 addressed China’s regulations on lead battery recycling and environmental emissions. The conference was attended by key stakeholders from industry and government and included a discussion of how the adoption of the BEST Certification Standard can help improve the industry in China.



Addressing Lead Paint in Cameroon

Much of the new paint manufactured and sold in African countries contains high levels of lead. Exposure to lead in paint is caused as the paint deteriorates and lead dust settles in and around the home. Children are extremely susceptible to exposure as they have frequent hand-to-mouth contact and play close to the ground where paint dust collects. Workers are exposed from manufacturing lead paint and from disturbing lead paint during construction and renovation activities.

OK International is working in partnership with the Research and Education Centre for Development (CREPD) to evaluate lead concentrations in consumer paints, work with industry to seek alternative formulations, and disseminate educational materials on lead hazards in Cameroon. This project is intended to provide the foundation for the phasing-out of lead based paints in Cameroon. We believe this project can serve as an excellent pilot for similar national programs throughout Africa. This project is being funded under the UNEP Quick Start Programme.

Location: Yaoundé, Cameroon
Partner Organization: Research and Education Centre for Development (CREPD)

smelter in La Oroya, Peru

The U.S. owned smelter in La Oroya, Peru has been operating for over 80 years causing heavy metal contamination throughout the city.

Heavy Metal Contamination From a U.S. Owned Smelter in Peru

The town of La Oroya, Peru - the site of an American owned smelter - is suffering from decades of unregulated emissions from the plant which continue to this day. According to the Peruvian Ministry of Health, blood lead levels among local children are dangerously high averaging 33.6 micrograms/deciliter, triple the World Health Organization limit of 10 micrograms/deciliter, while the vegetation in the surrounding area has been destroyed by acid rain. Limited environmental sampling has revealed lead levels exceeding public health standards in almost 90 percent of the homes, extensive soil contamination, and excessive airborne emissions throughout the town.

Lead causes a range of health effects, but primarily effects neurological development in children resulting in reduced school performance, lower scores on standardized tests (such as IQ), mental retardation and can even cause death. A significant portion of those tested by the Ministry of health should have received immediate medical attention to remove lead from the body, but no follow-up was ever initiated.

Toxicologist Kathryn Dowling of OK International conducts a training program on lead hazards for health practitioners and community organizations in La Oroya, Peru.

To plan for remediation and to examine the potential for ongoing exposure from the lead and other metals already deposited in La Oroya, further testing of dust lead levels inside homes was required. We therefore brought the equipment and supplies and trained our partners at the Asociación Civil Labor to collect dust wipe samples. We then arranged for half the samples to be analyzed at a laboratory in the U.S. as a donated service. After obtaining the results, we worked with our Peruvian partners to prepare a report, and conduct education and outreach about the health risks associated with the exposure to lead and other pollutants.

Full report in PDF format: [English] [Spanish]

Location: La Oroya, Peru
Partner Organization: Asociación Civil Labor

Mitrovica, site of the second largest smelter complex in Europe

Mitrovica, the site of the second largest smelter complex in Europe, produced lead, arsenic and cadmium from the 1930s until 2000.

Responding to Environmental Lead Pollution: Training Local Health Officials

The World Health Organization (WHO) requested OK International to go to Kosovo in response to the human tragedy left behind by an old industrial site in the former Yugoslavia. Mitrovica, the site of the second largest smelter complex in Europe, produced lead, arsenic and cadmium from the 1930s until 2000 when it was shut down by foreign peacekeepers to stop additional pollution coming from the plant. A second complex South of the town producing lead batteries was also shut down. (See the photograph.)

Around 2001 it became apparent that a large number of Roma (Gypsy) children, displaced during the war and relocated to a refugee community on top of the smelter tailings, were experiencing lead poisoning. Subsequently WHO got involved and conducted studies demonstrating extensive environmental pollution and human exposure. The organization continues to play a major role in cleaning up the legacy of the smelter in Mitrovica.

Perry Gottesfeld of OK International conducting a Lead Risk Assessment training class for local health officials.

Although the Roma refugees were moved in 2004 to a near by location, their new homes were also located on top of extensively contaminated tailings. The newer structures are of better quality and provide some small help in keeping out lead contaminated dust and soil. But children and adults in this community and throughout other areas of Mitrovica are continuing to experience extremely high rates of lead poisoning. OK International conducted an in-depth training class for local health officials on how to test, characterize, and respond to lead hazards in the environment.



Reducing Mercury Contamination from Small Scale Gold Refining Operations

In the Manica District of Mozambique, more than 10,000 people are involved in gold refining activities in which mercury is used to extract gold from ore deposits. This practice has severe health hazards and has caused significant environmental contamination in the region. No effort has been made to identify cases of mercury poisoning or to assist these small operators with technologies to reduce mercury contamination. Our efforts are helping our partners to measure the impact of mercury contamination upon the health of those in the community, and to provide training on the technology to better collect mercury vapors in order to reduce exposures.

Location: Mozambique (Manica District)
Partner Organization: Associacao ABIODES