Hell on earth: The 10 most polluted places on the planet

A A A


SUMGAYIT, AZERBAIJAN

Affected people: 275,000
Pollutants: Organic chemicals, oil, heavy metals including mercury.
Source: Petrochemical and industrial sites

Once a Soviet centre of industry and the location of more than 40 rubber, chlorine and pesticides factories, Sumgayit is now home to piles of untreated sewage and mercury-contaminated sludge. Cancer rates are up to 50 per cent higher than the rest of Azerbaijan and a birth defects are common.

SUKINDA, INDIA

Affected people: 2,600,000
Pollutants: Hexavalent chromium and other metals
Source: Chromite mines and processing

Home to 97 per cent of India's chromite deposits, Sukinda's mines spew out millions of tons of waste rock into the rivers that residents drink from. A quarter of nearby residents have pollution-related illnesses

TIANJIN, CHINA

Affected people: 140,000
Pollutants: Lead and other heavy metals
Source: Mining and processing

Tianjin, one of China's largest lead-production bases, has no pollution controls. Forced to breathe air with 10 times the legal levels of lead, residents suffer lower IQs, impaired growth and brain damage.

CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE

Affected people: Initially 5.5m, now disputed
Pollutants: Radioactive dust
Source: Meltdown of reactor core in 1986

From 1992 to 2002, 4,000 youngsters born in and around the 19-mile exclusion zone that still exists around the destroyed reactor developed thyroid cancer. Five million people still live in contaminated areas.

DZERZINSK, RUSSIA

Affected people: 300,000
Pollutants: Chemicals and toxic by-products, including Sarin and VX gas. Also lead, phenols.
Source: Cold War-era chemical weapons manufacturing. The principal site of chemical weapons production during the Cold War, Dzerzinsk is now a centre of chemical manufacturing. Over a period of 70 years until 1998, 300,000 tons of chemical waste were dumped, leaching almost 200 chemicals into groundwater. The drinking water is heavily contaminated and the life expectancy for men is just 42.

NORILSK, RUSSIA

Affected people: 134,000
Pollutants: Air pollution - particulates, sulphur dioxide, heavy metals (nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, selenium), phenols, hydrogen sulphide.
Source: The mining and processing of nickel and other related metals.

The snow is black in Norilsk, and 16 per cent of child deaths at the former Siberian slave labour camp are caused by respiratory illnesses related to the city's mining operations. Residents at the world's largest heavy metals smelting complex suffer a horrifying range of illnesses including respiratory illnesses and lung cancer. Birth defects are common.

VAPI, INDIA

Affected People: 71,000
Pollutants: Chemicals, heavy metals
Source: Industry estates

At the end of India's 400 km-long "Golden Corridor" of industrial estates, Vapi has more than 50 factories producing petrochemicals, fertilisers, dyes and paint, discharging dangerous levels of pollutants into the groundwater. Doctors report a high incidence of respiratory diseases and spontaneous abortions.

KABWE, ZAMBIA

Affected people: 255,000
Pollutants: Lead, cadmium
Source: Lead mining and processing

Children in Kabwe still bathe in the heavily polluted river that runs from the town's lead mine, which ran without safeguards from 1902 to 1994. Many have blood lead levels considered fatal.

LINFEN, CHINA

Affected People: 3,000,000
Pollutants: Fly-ash, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, arsenic, lead.
Source: Automobile and industrial emissions

Linfen's residents are forced to breathe the toxic output from hundreds of unregulated mines, factories and refineries. Clinics report an explosion in bronchitis, pneumonia and lung cancer.

LA OROYA, PERU

Affected people: 35,000
Pollutants: Lead, copper, zinc, sulphur dioxide.
Source: Heavy-metal mining and processing

The US owners of a metallic smelter in this mining town have failed to clean up the plant, which exposes residents to toxic emissions and waste. Ninety-nine per cent of children living in or around La Oyroya have blood lead levels that exceed safe limits and acid rain caused by sulphur dioxide in the air has decimated vegetation in the area.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor