Health Related

25 of the Dirtiest Places in the World

What do we mean by “dirty”? Well, pollution can be classified in so many ways – chemical, radioactive, and littering for example.

So, in this post we will tackle various forms of pollution – from Mexico CIty’s smog problem to Lake Karachay’s radioactive contamination. It can be said that pollution is not always visible; that pollution sometimes is not what it seems. Nevertheless, take note of the following places, for these are one of the most polluted areas in the planet.

La Oroya, Peru

Number of people potentially affected: 35,000

Type of pollutant: Lead, copper, zinc and sulfur dioxide

Source of pollution: Heavy metal mining and processing

Image URL: http://portal.andina.com.pe/EDPfotografia2/Thumbnail/2010/08/02/000132342W.jpg

Source: Andina.com

La Oroya is a city of about 33,000 people on the River Mantaro in central Peru. It is situated on the Altiplano some 176 km east-northeast of the national capital, Lima, and is capital of the Yauli Province.

La Oroya is a mining town with an alarming toxic emission from a metal processing plant owned by a US-based Doe Run Corporation. The plant is responsible for the dangerous level of lead in the blood of 99 percent of the children living in La Oroya and in nearby areas. Local officials recorded extremely high rates of premature deaths that are linked to intoxication from these noxious gasses. Acid rain is so common in La Oroya due to high sulfur dioxide emission from the plant. Consequently, vegetation in the surrounding area has been totally destroyed.

Norilsk, Russia

Number of people potentially affected: 134,000

Type of pollutant: Air pollution — particulates, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals, phenols

Source of pollution: Major nickel and metal mining and processing

Image URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ed/Forest_tundra.jpeg

Norilsk  is an industrial city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located above the Arctic Circle, east of the Yenisei River and south of the western Taymyr Peninsula.

Norilsk is the northernmost city in the world making it coldest, but it is also one of the most polluted. It was founded in 1935 as a Siberian slave labor camp, and life there has pretty much gone downhill since.

Home to the world’s largest heavy metal smelting complex, more than 4 million tons of cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, arsenic, selenium and zinc are released into the air every year in Norilsk. Air samples exceed the maximum allowance for both copper and nickel, and mortality from respiratory diseases is much higher than in Russia as a whole. “Within 30 miles (48 km) of the nickel smelter there’s not a single living tree,” says Fuller of The Blacksmith Institute. “It’s just a wasteland.”

Citarum River, Indonesia

Number of people potentially affected: < 5 million

Type of pollutant: Household and industrial toxic wastes

Source of pollution: Textile factories and households

Citarum River is the longest and largest river in West Java, Indonesia. It is also the third longest river in Java after Bengawan Solo and Brantas. It has an important role in the life of the over 5 million people of West Java, as it supports agriculture, water supply, fishery, industry, sewerage, electricity, etc. However, it has become one of the world’s most polluted river. Heavy pollution of river water by household and industrial waste in the Indonesian province of West Java is threatening the health of at least five million people living on the riverbanks, say government officials and water experts.

Textile factories in Bandung and Cimahi were major toxic waste contributors. More than 2,000 industries contaminate 5,020 sq miles of the river with lead, mercury, arsenic and other toxins.

On December 5, 2008, the Asian Development Bank approved a $500 million loan for cleaning up the river, calling it the world’s dirtiest.

Image URL: http://www.sewonartspace.org/files/indo_67.jpg

Source: www.sewonartspace.org

Kabwe, Zambia

Number of people potentially affected: 255,000

Type of pollutant: Lead and cadmium

Source of pollution: Lead mining and processing

Image URL: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-fM3DelrXqv8/UDVzE6WAkwI/AAAAAAAADyo/udB5KG94FQE/s1600/broken%2Bhill%2Bmine%252C%2Bkabwe%252C%2Bzambia.jpeg

Kabwe is the capital of the Zambian Central Province with a population estimated at 202,914 at the 2010 census. Formerly named Broken Hill, it was founded when lead and zinc deposits were discovered in 1902. There has been little concern about the effects of the lead and zinc mines in Kabwe. Though the mines and smelter are no longer operating, lead levels in Kabwe are astronomical.

The lead concentrations in children, on average, are five to 10 times the permissible U.S. Environmental Protection Agency levels. This lead concentration can even be high enough to kill. “We did blood tests on some of these kids, and they literally broke our machines,” says Richard Fuller, president of the Blacksmith Institute. “There is a long, nasty history here.” But there’s also a bit of hope: the World Bank has recently allocated $40 million for a clean-up project.

Matanza-Riachuelo River, Argentina

Number of people potentially affected: 3.5 million people

Type of pollutant: Industrial toxic wastes

Source of pollution: Chemical, pharmaceutical, and petrochemical plants

The Matanza River is known by several names, including, in Spanish, Río de la Matanza (“the slaughter river” in English), or Río Mataderos (“slaughterhouses river”).

In 2007, the Blacksmith Institute, a New York-based environmental NGO, declared the Matanza-Riachuelo one of the most polluted places in the world. Along with the Ganges in India and Chernobyl in the Ukraine, the river was added to the institute’s list of polluted areas awaiting attention, called the ‘Dirty Thirty’.

About a third of the pollution being dumped in the river comes from chemical, pharmaceutical, or petrochemical plants along the river.  8.3 tons of oil is spilled into the river every day from large petroleum units. Elevated levels of lead, mercury, zinc, cadmium, copper, magnesium, and nickel have a constant presence in these waters.  21% of the pollution comes from the meat, tannery, and dairy industry dumping blood, internal organs, and skin into the river. This practice often gives the river a dark color, and is where the name Matanza-Riachuelo, which translates to “slaughter-brook”, comes from.  The food and beverage industry contribute 14% of the pollution, paper mills and the textile industry contribute 11%, while metallurgic, the process of extracting metals from their ore, makes up 7%. The rest is a combination of urban waste, pesticides, sewage, and anything else that someone can find to throw into the river.

Image URL: http://www.dw.com/image/0,,15374981_7,00.jpg

Source: www.dw.com

Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan

Number of People Potentially Affected: 25,000

Type of Pollutants: Radioactive, Uranium

Source of Pollution: Mining

Mailuu-suu is a mining town in Jalal-Abad Region of southern Kyrgyzstan that has been economically depressed since the fall of the Soviet Union. From 1946 to 1968 the Zapadnyi Mining and Chemical Combine in Mailuu-Suu mined and processed more than 10,000 short tons (9,100 t) of uranium ore for the Soviet nuclear program.

A 1999 study conducted by the Institute of Oncology and Radioecology showed that twice as many residents suffered from some form of cancer than in the rest of the country.

Sukinda, India

Number of people potentially affected: 2,600,000

Type of pollutant: Hexavalent chromium and other metals

Source of pollution: Chromite mines and processing

Image URL: http://feedyweedy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Vapi-India-2.jpg

Source: www.feedyweedy.com

Sukinda is a town in Jajpur district, Odisha, India. Odisha accounts for about 98% of the total proved chromite (chromium ore) reserves of the country, of which about 97% occur in the Sukinda Valley.

Twelve mines operate without environmental controls, leaching hexavalent chromium into drinking water supplies. Hexavalent chromium is a nasty heavy metal used for stainless steel production and leather tanning that is carcinogenic if inhaled or ingested. More than 30 million tons of waste rock are spread over the surrounding areas, and untreated water is discharged by the mines into the river.

Image URL: https://i.guim.co.uk/img/static/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2015/7/28/1438082396845/4770415439_dd63f5de8f_o-1020×612.jpeg?w=860&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=39d39bf12f546666bbdd37fbd30cc512

Source: Flickr

Baku, Azerbaijan

Number of people potentially affected: ~ 2 million

Type of pollutants: Petrochemical wastes

Source of pollution: Oil refineries and factories

Surrounded by Iran, Georgia, Russia and Armenia on the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan has long been an oil hub. Fetid water, oil ponds and life-threatening levels of air pollution emitted from drilling and shipping land the former Soviet manufacturing center makes Baku, Azerbaijan one of the most polluted cities in the world.

Image URL: https://turcanin.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/baku-azerbaijan-cess-pool-of-pollution_pilotgirl-sonja-stark.jpg

Source: www.turcanin.wordpress.com

Rondonia, Brazil

Rondônia is a state in Brazil, located in the north-western part of the country. To the west is a short border with the state of Acre, to the north is the state of Amazonas, in the east is Mato Grosso, and in the south and southwest is Bolivia.

Rondonia is not polluted in the same sense other places in this list are. It is considered as one of the most polluted places on Earth because it is one of the most deforested regions of the Amazon rain forest. Thousands of acres of forest have been slashed and burned here, mostly to make room for cattle ranching.

Image URL: https://media.mnn.com/assets/images/2009/09/rondonia.jpg.638x0_q80_crop-smart.jpg

Source: www.mnn.com

Mexico City, Mexico

Number of people potentially affected: Over 8 million

Type of pollutants: Hydrocarbons, fossil fuel emission

Source of pollution: Cars, factories

Mexico City’s air has gone from among the world’s cleanest to among the dirtiest in the span of a generation. Historic air pollution episodes of the 1950s led to acute increases in infant mortality. Connections have also been found between air pollution and school absenteeism among children in Mexico City, between air pollution and heart rate variability among the elderly in Mexico City, and between urban air pollutants on emergency visits for childhood asthma in Mexico City. At the time pollution was thought to cause 1,000 deaths and 35,000 hospitalisations per year.

The most important air pollutant of Mexico City are ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), precursors like nitrogen oxides (NOX), hydrocarbons (HC), and carbon monoxide (CO), that originate from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. This is aggravated by its geographical location – situated at a volcanic crater surrounded by mountains. This traps pollutants and usually form smogs and cloak the city.

Image URL: https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/08921f88625969f7c5235a3a707858756212066d/0_119_5302_3179/master/5302.jpg?w=620&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=aef088c0393587f67f9289e7f6cfbc87

Source: Getty Images

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Number of people potentially affected: 150 million

Type of pollutants: Hydrocarbons, fossil fuel emission

Source of pollution: Cars, factories

Dhaka is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. It is one of the world’s most populated cities, with a population of 17 million people in the Greater Dhaka Area alone. It is reported that thousands of people in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, are dying prematurely because of air pollution, say health experts. What can you expect from densely populated yet braided by river systems, with a labyrinth of low-lying wetlands leading to the Bay of Bengal – perfect for trapping pollutants in the air.

An estimated 15,000 premature deaths, as well as several million cases of pulmonary, respiratory and neurological illness are attributed to poor air quality in Dhaka, according to the Air Quality Management Project (AQMP), funded by the government and the World Bank.

Image URL: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2013/07/15/world/asia/Bangladesh/Bangladesh-master1050.jpg

Source: The New York Times

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Number of people potentially affected: Over 2 million

Type of pollutants: Hydrocarbons, fossil fuel emission

Source of pollution: Cars, factories, ships

Port-au-Prince is the capital and most populous city of Haiti. The city’s population was estimated at 987,310 in 2015 with the metropolitan area estimated at a population of 2,618,894.

Due to poor waste management, Port-au-Prince’s air and water are gravely polluted. Serving as one of the main ports on the island of Hispaniola, Port au Prince is central to Haiti’s economic development. A lack of pollution controls, however, contributes to the widespread environmental problems confronting the Haitian city. Not only has it been significantly destroyed by natural disasters and deforestation, it has largely suffered from poor waste management.

Image URL: http://images.forbes.com/media/2008/02/26/dirtycities_04.jpg

Source: Getty Images via Forbes

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Number of people potentially affected: 4.5 million

Type of pollutants: Household wastes, hydrocarbons, fossil fuel emissions

Source of pollution: Automobiles, households

Dar es Salaam is the largest city of Tanzania and the largest city in eastern Africa by population, as well as a regionally important economic centre. It has a high rate of urbanization and population growth. The vast majority of the city’s inhabitants are a result of rural-urban migration. The current population of Dar es Salaam City is estimated at 4.5m people. In summary, for the last decade, the city of Dar es Salaam has experienced what local authorities call “excessive urbanization.

Its poor waste management have caused a number of urban problems such as specific environmental problems like roadside air quality, solid waste, and water quality, among others. Its poor waste management regime continues to degrade its water and air quality. Solid wastes continues to empty into the Msimbazi River, the prevalence of infectious disease will continue to increase.

Image URL: http://coastalcare.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/tanzania-plastic-pollution.jpg

Source: Coastal Care

Brazzaville, Congo

Number of people potentially affected: Around 2 million

Type of pollutants: Household wastes, hydrocarbons, natural gas emissions

Source of pollution: Automobiles, households, oil refineries

Brazzaville is the capital and largest city of the Republic of the Congo and is located on the Congo River. With an extremely contaminated water supply, the capital of the Congo has an extensive list of health and sanitation issues knocking at its door.

Even its day-to-day economic activities are affected. “Certain days water becomes very dirty, and the fishermen do not go at sea. Oil pollution prevents us from concluding our activities. We are obliged to go further to hope to return with a quantity of fish “, notes Habram Mossassi, fisherman to 30 km of Pointe-Noire, capital economic of Congo, on the Atlantic Coast.


Life expectancy in Brazzaville is the lowest in Africa.

Image URL: http://pubs.sciepub.com/jfa/3/1/1/image/fig4.png

Source: Science and Education Publishing

Earth’s Orbit

Did you know that the Earth is surrounded by nearly 4 million pounds of space debris. Earth does, however, have over 8,000 objects orbiting around it. Most of these would be classified as “space junk” or debris left over from spacecraft and missions in the past. The image you see above was actually generated by NASA to show which ones are presently being tracked.

Image URL: http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/4-8-nrc-evaluates-nasas-orbital-debris-programs.jpg

Source: NASA

Yamuna River, India

Number of people potentially affected: 57 million

Type of pollutant: Biochemical wastes

Source of pollution: Households, industrial centers

The Yamuna is the longest and the second largest tributary river of the Ganges (Ganga) in northern India. It is the longest river in India which does not directly flow to the sea. Hindus believe that one dip in the sacred River Yamuna frees one from the torments of death.  But burden of overgrowing population and unchecked dumping of sewage and industrial waste has rather turned it into a horrible scene.

Nearly 57 million people depend on the Yamuna waters. With an annual flow of about 10,000 cubic billion metres (cbm) and usage of 4,400 cbm (of which irrigation constitutes 96 per cent), the river accounts for more than 70 per cent of Delhi’s water supplies.

Image URL: http://www.planetcustodian.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/River-Yamuna-dead.jpg

Source: The Planet Custodian

Tianying, China

Number of people potentially affected: 140,000

Type of pollutant: Lead and other heavy metals

Source of pollution: Mining and processing

Image URL: https://wtdevflnt.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/6a0105364cdc73970c01156fc0cd07970b-800wi1.jpg

Source: www.acidcow.com

Tianying is a town under the administration of Jieshou, which is in turn administered by the prefecture-level city of Fuyang, in northwestern Anhui Province, China. Nearly half of China’s lead production is located in Tianying and the surrounding area. The use of antiquated technology and lack of proper disposal has led to high levels of lead pollution in the area.

“Wheat has been found to contain lead levels up to 24 times Chinese standards, which are even more stringent that U.S. restrictions on lead” the Blacksmith Institute reported.

As a result, residents, especially the children, are reported to suffer from lead poisoning and its related effects lower IQs, short attention spans, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, impaired physical growth, hearing and visual problems, stomachaches, irritation of the colon, kidney malfunction, anemia and brain damage.

Sumgayit, Azerbaijan

Number of people potentially affected: 275,000

Type of pollutant: Organic chemicals, oil and heavy metals

Source of pollution: Petrochemical and industrial complexes

Image URL: http://gdb.rferl.org/82139300-114C-434A-9CA9-A87259C2C0A7_mw800_mh600.jpg

Source: www.gdb.rfel.org

Sumgayıt is the third largest city in Azerbaijan, located near the Caspian Sea, about 31 kilometres (19 miles) away from the capital, Baku. The city has a population of around 298,000, making it the third-largest city in Azerbaijan after the capital Baku and Ganja. Unfortunately, it is heavily polluted.

Sumgayit was a major Soviet industrial center with more than 40 factories producing industrial and agricultural chemicals. Sumgayit’s many factories, while they were operational, released as much as 70,000 to 120,000 tons of harmful emissions, including mercury, into the air every year. Most of the factories have been shut down, but the pollutants remain.

As a result, a high percentage of babies are born premature, stillborn, and with genetic defects such as Down’s syndrome, anencephaly, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, bone disease, and mutations such as club feet, cleft palate, and additional digits.

Vapi, India

Number of people potentially affected: 71,000

Type of pollutant: Chemicals and heavy metals

Source of pollution: Industrial estates

Image URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/Sunset_-_vapi.jpg

Vapi is a city and municipality in Valsad District in the state of Gujarat. It is situated on the banks of the Damanganga River and is the largest city in the Valsad district and also the second largest city after Surat in South Gujarat. It can be called the most developed city in Gujarat followed by Ahmedabad, Surat,Vadodara and Rajkot – undoubtedly though, it is also the most polluted.

Vapi marks the southern end of the country’s “Golden Corridor”a 400-kilometer (245-mile) stretch of industrial sites that manufacture petrochemicals, pesticides, dyes, paints, and fertilizers. A survey by the Indian government revealed that the sites lack a proper system for disposing of industrial waste, which often contains high levels of heavy metals and cyanide, among other contaminants.

Vapi’s distance from sources of clean water has forced residents to consume the town’s contaminated water, the institute said. As a result, incidences of respiratory diseases, carcinoma, skin and throat cancers, birth defects, and infertility are high in Vapi, the nonprofit added.

Dzerzhinsk, Russia

Number of people potentially affected: 300,000

Type of pollutant: Chemicals and toxic byproducts, including sarin and VX gas

Source of pollution: Cold War-era chemical weapons manufacturing

Image URL:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/Dzerzhinsk_-_KTM-5_Trams_on_Gaidar_Square.jpg

Image URL:

http://www.theneweconomy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Dzerzhinsk.jpg

Dzerzhinsk a city in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia, located along the Oka River, about 400 kilometers (250 mi) east of Moscow. It has been one of Russia’s principal manufacturing sites of chemical weapons until the end of the Cold War.

Between 1930 and 1998, over 300,000 tons of chemical wastes were dumped in the city, leading the Guinness Book of World Records to name it the most chemically polluted city in the world.

In 2003, the death rate in the area was reported to exceed the birth rate by 260 percent, and the average life expectancy was reported to be 42 years for men and 47 for women. A quarter of the city’s 300,000 residents are still employed in factories that produce toxic chemicals.

Lake Karachay, Russia

Number of people potentially affected: Variable

Type of pollutant: Radioactive leak

Source of pollution: Cold War-era chemical weapons manufacturing

Lake Karachay, located in the southern Ural Mountains in eastern Russia. It used to serve as a dumping ground for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapon facilities. It was also affected by a string of accidents and disasters causing the surrounding areas to be highly contaminated with radioactive waste. Washington, D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute has described it as the “most polluted spot on Earth”.

Nuclear waste, either from civilian or military nuclear projects, remains a serious threat to the environment of Russia. Reports suggest that there are few or no road signs warning about the polluted areas surrounding Lake Karachay.

Some parts of the lake are extremely radioactive (600 röntgens/hour) and one could receive a lethal dose of radiation in 30 minutes (300 röntgens). Radiation from the Chernobyl disaster added to the pollution of Lake Karachay.

Image URL: https://antinuclearinfo.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/lake-karachay.gif

Source. Nuclear News

Chernobyl, Ukraine

Number of people potentially affected: Initially estimated at 5.5 million, currently disputed

Type of pollutant: Radiation

Source of pollution: Nuclear meltdown

Image URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/VOA_Markosian_-_Chernobyl02.jpg

Chernobyl is known for the worst nuclear disaster in history. On April 26, 1986, a mishap in a nuclear reactor in Chernobyl caused its core to release 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki – it was a nuclear meltdown. The consequence was fatal and horrendous.

More than two decades after, the effects can still be felt and seen. The 19-mile (30.6-kilometer) exclusion zone around the plant remains uninhabitable. Local residents still suffer from the effects of the nuclear fallout (i.e. skin lesions, respiratory ailments, infertility and birth defects).

Linfen, China

Number of people potentially affected: 3,000,000

Type of pollutant: Coal and particulates

Source of pollution: Automobile and industrial emissions

Image URL: https://uosm2018.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/linfen-china-pollution-621×436.jpg

Source: Uosm2018.wordpress.com

Linfen is a prefecture-level city in southern Shanxi province, People’s Republic of China. It has an area of 20,275 square kilometres (7,828 sq mi.) Prior to 1978, Linfen was famous for its spring water, greenery and rich agriculture and therefore nicknamed “The Modern Fruit and Flower Town”.

Since then it has been developing into a main industrial centre for coal mining (it now produces roughly two-thirds of the nation’s energy), which has significantly damaged the city’s environment, air quality, farming, health and its previous status as a green village. Residents in Linfen literally choke on coal dust at night. Also, Don’t bother hanging your laundry — it’ll turn black before it dries. China’s State Environmental Protection Agency says that Linfen has the worst air in the country, which is saying something, considering that the World Bank has reported that 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in China.

North Pacific Gyre

The Great Pacific garbage patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean discovered between 1985 and 1988. The patch extends over an indeterminate area, with estimates ranging very widely depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.

The patch is characterized by exceptionally high relative concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Because of its large area, it is of very low density (4 particles per cubic meter), and therefore not visible from satellite photography, nor even necessarily to casual boaters or divers in the area. It consists primarily of a small increase in suspended, often microscopic, particles in the upper water column.

Image URL:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/64/North_Pacific_Gyre_World_Map.png

Ahvaz, Iran

Number of people potentially affected: 1.2 million people

Type of pollutant: Airborne particles

Source of pollution: Automobile and industrial emissions

Ahvaz  is a city in the southwest of Iran. At the 2011 census, its population was 1,112,021 and its built-up (or metro) area with Sheybany was home to 1,136,989 inhabitants. Ahvaz has the world’s worst air pollution according to a survey by the World Health Organization in 2011.

The city had the highest count of small airborne particles out of 1,100 urban areas around the world. These particles can cause asthma, heart disease and lung cancer, and the problem in Iran is made worse by dust storms.

Image URL: http://assets2.motherboard.tv/content-images/contentimage/no-slug/f890f905d90952f04f007dcdb12be42a.jpg

Source: MotherBoard

All images are grabbed from WikiMedia and are licensed under Creative Commons (CC), unless stated otherwise.

Source: Mercer Human Resource Consulting’s 2007 Health and Sanitation Rankings