The Blacksmith Institute’s list features locations where the air or the water is fraught with nuclear, chemical, petroleum and industrial waste. Remote industrial towns, e-waste processing centers and the site of an infamous nuclear disaster top 2013’s worst polluted places, according to a new list from the New York-based nonprofit Blacksmith Institute. According to the report, the World Health Organization has estimated that 23 percent of deaths in the developing world can be attributed to environmental factors like pollution. Besides cancer, exposure to toxic chemicals can cause acute and chronic poisoning, cognitive impairment, organ damage and respiratory problems, the report said, adding that children are most vulnerable to these impacts. Researchers said the 10 sites were chosen based on the severity of their health risk and prioritized by their value as examples of different kinds of pollution threats around world.
Here are the 10 sites listed in the report:
Agbogbloshie, Ghana: This dumpsite in the Ghanaian capital of Accra is the second largest e-waste processing area in West Africa. When sheathed cables from electronics like microwaves and computers are burned to recover the copper material inside, metals can particulate in the smoke and get left behind in the soil.
Chernobyl, Ukraine: The world’s worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 released 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Skin lesions, respiratory ailments, infertility and birth defects affected people in contaminated areas in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine for years and the accident has been linked to more than 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer.
Citarum River, Indonesia: More than 500,000 people are directly affected, and up to 5 million people are indirectly impacted, by chemical pollution in the Citarum River Basin in West Java. Lead, aluminum, manganese and iron concentrations in the river are several times higher than world averages because of pollution from industrial and domestic sources.
Dzerzhinsk, Russia: A major site of chemical manufacturing in Russia, Dzerzhinsk has high levels of pollutants like dioxins and phenol in the groundwater. Residents suffer from diseases and cancers of the eyes, lungs and kidneys and life expectancy in the city is just 47 for women and just 42 for men.
Hazaribagh, Bangladesh: Tanneries using old, outdated and inefficient processing methods to make leather dump 22,000 cubic liters of toxic waste each day into the city’s main river, impacting more than 160,000 people.
Kabwe, Zambia: Decades of unregulated lead mining in this African city have caused serious health problems for residents of Kabwe, where more than 300,000 people are thought to be affected by pollution.
Kalimantan, Indonesia: On the island of Borneo, Kalimantan and the surrounding areas have become contaminated with mercury because of small-scale gold mining, impacting some 225,000 people.
Matanza Riachuelo, Argentina: More than 15,000 industries are thought to be releasing a variety of pollutants into the Matanza River, which passes through Buenos Aires and empties into the Rio de la Plata. Contaminants include zinc, lead, copper, nickel and total chromium (a term that includes to forms of chromium), making the drinking water near the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin seriously unsafe, threating more than 20,000 people who live in the area.
Niger River Delta, Nigeria: An unknown number of people are impacted by the voracious petroleum industry in this densely populated part of Africa, where there were nearly 7,000 incidents involving oil spills between 1976 and 2001.
Norilsk, Russia: Norilsk is an industrial city in Siberian Russia, where each year, nearly 500 tons each of copper and nickel oxides and 2 million tons of sulfur dioxide are released into the air. Life expectancy for factory workers in Norilsk is 10 years below the Russian average.