While technological advancements have simplified our lives, their byproducts have also slowly brought about contamination and pollution to our environment. Although the entire world has its fair share of pollution, there are certain countries that lead the pack.
If you’re thinking of traveling or relocating, stop and think before you consider these cities; here is a list of the ten most polluted cities in the world.
1. Linfen, ChinaThis city located along the banks of the Fen River is considered the most polluted city in the world, according to Time Magazine. Its 3,000,000 residents have to wake up to coal and particulate pollutants every day. The city is part of China’s coal belt, with the hills around the district saturated with legal (and illegal) mines.
Its air is loaded with too much burning coal that most residents are hospitalized for respiratory conditions such as black lung, chronic bronchitis, and asthma. Perhaps the most definitive proof of excessive coal levels in the air is the fact that your laundry can turn black if you hang it outside for even a few minutes.
2. Tianying, ChinaLocated in northeastern China, Tianying is a looming industrial city that is polluted with lead and other heavy metals. Because of its nomadic technology and poor policies, lead has managed to seep into its waters and once fertile soils. Unfortunately, the 140,000 citizens of one of the most polluted cities in the world, according to the Globe and Mail, are at risk of suffering from the long-term health effects of lead on the brain such as dullness, forgetfulness, irritability, loss of memory, and hallucinations.
3. Sukinda, IndiaHexavalent chromium is just one of the many metals that make Sukinda, India one of the most polluted cities in the world, according to MSN. As one of the largest opencast chromite ores mines in the globe, Sukinda waters are said to contain as much as 60% of hexavalent chromium. With that being said, such water pollution makes the 2,600,000 million Sukinda residents at risk of contracting nose ulcers, runny nose, and worse, breathing problems like cough, asthma and wheezing.
Because of the lack of proper regulations, chromium-related illnesses have resulted to about 85% of mining-related deaths in the region.
4. Vapi, IndiaHome to 71,000 residents, Vapi is one of the several Indian towns playing home to industrial states. Unfortunately, the onset of industrialization has led to the contamination of the city’s lands and waters with chemicals and other heavy metals. What’s more alarming is that Vapi’s groundwater contains mercury (among many other heavy metals), according to National Geographic.
Prolonged exposure to mercury can wreak havoc on one’s health–impairment of peripheral vision and muscle weakness to name a few. Add to that, the future of the city is at risk, as neurological problems are usually manifested in children born to mothers who have ingested mercury-laced waters.
5. La Oroya, PeruAs the home of many heavy metal mines and processing plants, La Oroya, Peru is the unfortunate recipient of lead, zinc, copper and sulfur runoffs. Unfortunately, 99% of the children in the area evince excessive amounts of lead in their systems–the leading culprit in their reading problems, learning problems, hearing loss, and stunted growth. With this alarming statistics, it looks like there’s no bright future for the 35,000 denizens of one of the most polluted cities in the world, especially now that Global Post says that one American smelter plant plans to reopen.
6. Dzerzhinsk, RussiaAccording to the Guinness Book of World Records, Dzerzhinsk is the most polluted city in the world in terms of chemical contamination. The city is one of the victims of the aftermath of cold war, as more than 300,000 tons of chemical wastes were dumped in the city from 1930 to 1998. Dioxin and phenol levels in the water are ridiculously high: they are in fact 19 million times the acceptable limit. Because of the chemical and toxic pollutants in the city, the life expectancy for men and women are very low, at 42 and 47 years respectively.
7. Norilsk, RussiaLike China and India, Russia is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world. One of them is Norilsk, home to 134,000 residents. Founded in 1935, the city originally served as a Siberian labor camp.
After the liberation of the labor camp, it was transformed as the world’s largest heavy metal smelting mine. Consequently, four million tons of zinc, arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper, nickel and selenium are released to the air every year, according to worstpolluted.org. Because of the dangerously high levels of nickel and copper in the air, many Norilsk residents have succumbed to respiratory illnesses.
8. Chernobyl, UkraineChernobyl rose to fame in April 26, 1986 when a nuclear plant meltdown released excessive amounts of radiation in the air – 100 times more than the power of Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombs combined. According to BBC, more than five million residents fled the city and left the 30-kilometer exclusion zone deserted.
Due to the radioactive iodine that was released into the air following the plant meltdown, about 5,000 people living in the area during the time of the explosion got afflicted with thyroid cancer.
Sumgayit was once a home to numerous petrochemical and industrial complexes. When these factories were fully operational, they have released 120,000 tons of mercury and other chemical emissions into the air. Although the plants have shut down, its byproducts – organic chemicals, oils and other heavy metals – have continued to pollute the land. They have caused a barrage of health problems for the 275,000 people living in the area. These pollutants utterly make Sumgayit the most polluted city in Azerbaijan.
10. Kabwe, ZambiaZambia was a former British colony called Northern Rhodesia. In 1902, bountiful amounts of lead were discovered and mined in the city. Despite the fact that mines and smelters are no longer actively operating in Kabwe, they have left enormous amounts of lead and cadmium residue, making the city one of the world’s most polluted, according to the Blacksmith Institute.
In fact, a handful of the 255,000 residents of Kabwe – most of them children – registered lead and cadmium levels five to ten times the normal limit. Because of these heavy metals, Kabwe residents have been plagued with numerous health problems like acute pneumonitis, chest pain, fever, and in severe cases, pulmonary edema.
While technology and industrialization have brought about many benefits, the sad truth is they have taken a toll on our ecosystem and environment. With the austere fact about these most polluted cities in the world, we can only rally for better rules and regulations that can reverse the hazardous effects of pollution, while we still can.