As the number of artificial chemicals reach all time highs across the globe, it’s become more and more difficult to find anywhere on Earth unaffected by man-made pollution and development, and far too often it takes things going really wrong before people take action to keep our planet clean. Here are 10 of the most polluted places in the world.
1. Appalachia, West Virginia
Mountaintop removal mining is one of the world’s most environmentally destructive practices, and it is most associated with coal mining in West Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains. Whole mountaintops are removed to get to the coal, which increases erosion and runoff thick with pollutants, poisoning streams and rivers throughout the region.
2. Citarum River, Indonesia
The Citarum has been called the world’s most polluted river. Around 5 million people live in the river’s basin, and most of them rely on its flow for their water supply.
3. Dzerzhinsk, Russia
The Guinness Book of World Records has named Dzerzhinsk the most chemically polluted city on Earth, and in 2003 its death rate exceeded its birth rate by 260 percent. More than 300,000 tons of chemical waste were improperly dumped here between 1930 and 1998.
The nation of Haiti was once 60 percent covered in forest. Today, only 2 percent of the country still has standing trees. This picture shows an aerial of the border between Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic (right). Haiti has cleared almost every tree right up to its borders. And with the recent devastating earthquake, the island’s environmental situation has worsened.
5. Kabwe, Zambia
Lead and cadmium soak the hills of Kabwe after decades of mining and processing. Children here have lead concentrations five to 10 times the permissible U.S. Environmental Protection Agency levels, and the ground is so contaminated that nothing can be grown.
6. La Oroya, Peru
La Oroya is a soot-covered mining town in the Peruvian Andes. Ninety-nine percent of the children who live here have blood levels that exceed acceptable limits for lead poisoning, which can be directly attributed to an American-owned smelter that has been polluting the city since 1922.
7. Linfen, China
Linfen has more air pollution than any other city in the world. Sitting at the heart of China’s coal belt, smog and soot from industrial pollutants and automobiles blacken the air at all hours. It is said that if you hang your laundry here, it will turn black before it dries.
8. Riachuelo Basin, Argentina
The Riachuelo Basin is a waterway whose name is synonymous with pollution. More than 3,500 factories operate along the banks of the river, a landscape that also includes 13 slums, numerous illegal sewage pipes running directly into the river, and 42 open garbage dumps.
9. Yamuna River, India
The Yamuna is the largest tributary of the Ganges River. Where it flows through Delhi, it’s estimated that 58 percent of the city’s waste gets dumped straight into the river. Millions of Indians still rely on these murky, sewage-filled waters for washing, waste disposal and drinking water.
10. Vapi, India
Sitting at the southern end of a 400-kilometer-long belt of industrial estates, the town of Vapi is a dumping place for chemicals of every kind. Levels of mercury in the groundwater are 96 times higher than safe levels, and heavy metals are present in the air and the local produce.