12 Of The World’s Most Polluted Cities

September 23, 2010 at 9:20 pm 10 comments

A list of some of the world’s most polluted cities, careless treatment of the environment has led to these cities being next to uninhabitable (without adverse health effects). The cities on this list are not placed in any specific order, and this list is not about the world’s top 12 most polluted cities. Quick fact: Judging by air quality 16 out of 20 of the world’s most polluted cities are in China.

Haina, Dominican Republic

Number Affected: 84,700

Haina,also known as Bajos de Haina, is often called “The Dominican Chernobyl”. The city is home to a closed automobile battery recycling smelter, and nearly everyone in Haina suffers from lead poisoning. Some experts have claimed this city is the site of the highest levels of lead contamination in the world. The majority of the citizens have nine to ten times more lead in their blood than what is deemed safe by the EPA. The source of the contamination is believed to be the old factory,the factory has since moved to a different area, however the damage has already been done.

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La Oroya,Peru

Number Affected: 30,000

The smelter in La Oroya hires more people in town than any other business, each year it produces 70,000 tonnes of copper,122,000 tonnes of lead and 45,000 tonnes of zinc. However the smelter has left the town dangerously polluted. How bad is the problem? Many people in this town are dying from lead poisoning,the very air they breathe is toxic. Residents of the town say that they have to stay inside some days because they air is so heavy it is impossible to breathe. A study conducted in 1999 showed that the town had extremely high levels of pollution with 85 times more arsenic,41 times more cadmium and 13 times more lead than is generally considered safe to breathe. The majority of children under six suffer from toxic levels of lead in their blood six times higher than the maximum safe limit as set by the World Health Organization (10 micrograms).Many of the same children have also been diagnosed with dangerous levels of other toxins such as:cadmium,arsenic, and mercury. Surprisingly despite all of this the residents in the town don’t want the smelter shut down because it provides jobs.


Number Affected: 4,000,000+

Linfen China is generally considered to be the world’s most polluted city, a choking cloud of dust and smoke covers the city at all times. Linfen is one of China’s leading coal producers, and coal production is blamed for the city’s pollution. Residents say if clothes were left outside to dry, when you return to take the clothes down, they will be black. Local clinics are seeing cases of bronchitis,pneumonia,and lung cancer increase at an alarming rate. Residents of the city have high levels of lead poisoning, this is especially common in children. Arsenicosis, a disease caused by drinking water contaminated with arsenic is epidemic in all areas, and 52% of city’s drinking water is considered unsafe to drink.

The World’s Top 20 Most Polluted Cities


Number Affected: 500 (in Chernobyl), and 5,000,000 in areas covered in radioactive fallout

The site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Chernobyl, is stilling contaminated after an accident that occurred in 1986. After the nuclear plant’s meltdown it is estimated that 100 times more radiation was released into the air than the fallout of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The city and the surrounding areas suffer from high levels of radiation, the 19 mile radius around the plant still remains uninhabitable. The effects of the radiation on the inhabitants is the subject of an intense debate however almost all can agree that thyroid cancer has increased in the region since the incident.

Sukinda, India

Number Affected: 2,600,000

Sukinda is contains 97% of India’s chromite ore deposits, and it is home to one of the largest chromite ore mines in the world. Twelve mines continue operating today without any environmental management plans. 30 million tons of waste rock have been spread out in surrounding areas, and the nearby Brahmani riverbanks. The mines discharge untreated water into the rivers, which then flow through an area that is flood prone resulting in further contamination. In the area 70% of surface water and 60% of drinking water is contaminated with two times more Chromium than the safe drinking level internationally. It has been recorded at 20 times the safe drinking limit several times over the years, researches also found the air and soil in the area to be contaminated. The workers at the coal mine have been heavily exposed to the contaminants daily. Tuberculosis,gastrointestinal bleed,and asthma are common. Birth defects,infertility, and still births have been on the rise. 84.7% of the deaths in the mining areas, and 86.4% of the deaths in nearby industrial villages are due to chromite related diseases.

Kabwe, Zambia

Number Affected: 255,000

Kabwe Zambia,located in southern Africa, was found to have an abundance of lead and zinc in 1902. Soon after the discovery mining and smelting industries moved in and ran almost continuously until 1994. The companies never dealt with any of the lead contamination that occurred, once the minerals ran out the industries left leaving behind 92 years of near constant pollution. Currently there are no more running mines in the area and the city is suffering from poisoned soil and water. A recent study found that the soil in a 12 1/2 mile radius (20km) had lead,cadmium,copper,and zinc at much higher levels than those deemed safe by the World Health Organization.There is a waterway in Kabwe that was once used by the smelters to carry away waste, that has no restrictions or safeguards to stop people from entering the water,local children often use this water for bathing.

On average the children of Kabwe have five to ten times more lead in their blood then the permissible maximum as by the EPA, in many cases it is potentially fatal.Younger men often search for scrap metals to sell and also suffer lead poisoning. A recent flood in the area washed years of built up waste into people’s gardens, homes, and into the city’s streets. Now much of the city is further contaminated with lead.

Dzerzhinsk, Russia

Number Affected: 300,000

Until the end of the cold war,Dzerzhinsk was one of Russia’s principal sites for chemical weapon productions and today it still remains a significant center for chemical manufacturing. An estimated 300,000 tonnes of chemical waste was carelessly and improperly disposed of between 1930 and 1998. 190 different identified chemicals were released into the groundwater, in places these chemicals turned the water into a white sludge containing dioxins, and phenol the levels of which are reported to be 17 million times the safe limit.

Because a number of industries are no longer in operation, groundwater, and water in the canals have risen and now threaten to release massive amounts of arsenic,mercury,lead,and dioxins into the Oka river basin a source of drinking water for the nearby city Nizhny Novgorod. Drinking supplies in this area and adjoining areas are heavily laced with contamination. A quarter of the city’s residents are still employed at factories that produce these toxic chemicals. There is a shocking amount of deaths below 40 in the local cemeteries. The death rate in this city has exceeded the birth rate by 260%. In one year there are 900 deaths in a city of 300,000. The average life expectancy for a man is 42, and 47 for women. The city has been labeled by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most chemically polluted city in the world.

Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan

Number Affected: 25,000

Throughout Mailuu-Suu there are twenty three tailing dumps and thirteen waste rock dumps. During the soviet era there was a uranium plant which produced more than 10,000 metric tons of uranium in twenty years. Millions of people in asia could be affected by this because the area where the plant stands is highly prone to seismic activity. An estimated 300,000 cubic meters fell into a river after an earthquake in 2005. 1.9 cubic meters of contamination are still in the dumps. A 1999 study found that the number of cases of any form of cancer in this area are twice as high as the rest of Kyrgyzstan.



Number Affected: 140,000

Tianying China produces about half of all lead in China, but low level technology,illegal operations,and almost no pollution control has led to severe lead poisoning in Tianying’s residents. It is also believed that some small recycling plants are located in the area which have a reputation for their heavy polluting. The lead industry has been pressured by local residents and officials to shut down production, but many industries remain in business. The average lead levels in the air and soil are(respectively) 8 1/2 and 10 times higher than health standards allow. Local farms have been contaminated with lead dust and contain as much as 24 times the amount of lead then allowed by national standards.

Many residents (particularly children) suffer from lead poisoning which has common effects such as:lower IQ,learning disabilities,hyper activity,short attention span,hearing and visual problems,stunted physical growth,kidney malfunction and failure,stomach aches,and brain damage. There has been a rise in premature births and cases of women giving birth to smaller, underdeveloped infants. This city has been labeled as one of the eight most polluted cities in China.

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Sumgayit, Azerbaijan

Number Affected: 275,000

Sumgayit used to be a major soviet industrial center,home to more than forty factories that produced industrial and agricultural chemicals. Some of the products included: synthetic rubber,chlorine,aluminium,pesticides,and detergents. While these factories were active they released more than 70-120,000 tonnes of harmful emissions into the air a year. Little to no precaution was taken to ensure safety the focus instead was turned to low cost production. Untreated sewage and mercury contaminated sludge are still dumped in the area.

During the soviet era Sumgayit had one of the highest mortality rates in the world. Sumgayit has 22-51% higher cancer rates than the rest of Azerbaijan, additionally there is an 8% increase in the cancer related mortality rate compared to the rest of the country. A high percentage of babies are still born or premature, and many suffer genetic defects such as down syndrome,bone disease,spinda bifida, hydrocephalus, and anencephaly, and mutations such as: club feet,cleft palate,and additional digits.

Norilsk, Russia

Norilsk was founded as a slave camp in 1935 and is Russia’s northernmost major city. The mining and smelting process in the area started in the 1930’s and today it is the world’s largest heavy metal smelting complex. 500 tonnes of copper oxides,500 tonnes of nickel oxides,and 2 million tonnes of sulfur are released into the air each year. The city is one of the most polluted cities in Russia. The snow in some areas is black, the air tastes and smells of sulfur and the average life expectancy in the area is 10 years below the average in the rest of Russia. The pollution affects the 37 mile (60 km) radius around the city. Respiratory disease rates are high in this region,especially amongst children, who also suffer from ear,nose and throat diseases. Chronic diseases of the lungs,respiratory tracts, and digestive systems are not uncommon all of which can result in lung cancer. Premature and late term pregnancy complications are frequent.


Ranipet, India

Number Affected: 50,000+

Ranipet,India is a medium sized community located 100 miles from Chennai, the fourth largest area in India. The soil and groundwater in the city are dangerously contaminated after decades of solid waste dumps and runoff from local factories. There are an estimated 150,000 tonnes of solid waste which accumulated in twenty years stacked in an open yard on the facility premises. Drinking wells in the area have been abandoned and crops fail to grow in this area. Mere contact with the water can cause painful skin lacerations.

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Entry filed under: Environmental, Health, Lists, Pollution. Tags: , , , , , , .

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