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Top 10 Most Polluted Places

Here is another list to help you with your travel plans – at all costs avoid the ten places on this list! This list was originally compiled by the Blacksmith Institute.

10. Dzerzhinsk, Russia

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A center of Cold War chemical manufacturing, the city’s 300,000 residents have one of the lowest life expectancies in the world thanks to waste injected directly into the ground. “Average life expectancy is roughly 45 years,” Robinson (of the Blacksmith Institute) says. “Fifteen to 20 years less than the Russian average and about half a Westerner’s.”

9. Kabwe, Zambia

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The second largest city in this southern African country was home to one of the world’s largest lead smelters until 1987. As a result, the entire city is contaminated with the heavy metal, which can cause brain and nerve damage in children and fetuses. “Measurements of children’s blood levels of lead average over 50 micrograms per deciliter and some were over 100,” Fuller (from the Blacksmith Institute) says. “For every 10 points above 10 micrograms per deciliter [(the U.S. Centers for Disease Control standard for treatment)] that your blood level goes up, your IQ drops.”


8. La Oroya, Peru

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Although this is one of the smallest communities on the list (population 35,000) it is also one of the most heavily polluted due to lead, copper and zinc mining by U.S.-based Doe Run mining company.

7. Linfen, China

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A city in the heart of China’s coal region in Shanxi Province, its three million inhabitants choke on dust and drink arsenic that leaches from the fossil fuel. In addition, extreme pollution makes visibility difficult.


6. Norilsk, Russia

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This city above the Arctic Circle contains the world’s largest metal smelting complex and, therefore, some of the world’s worst smog. “There is so much pollution going into the air from this place that there is no living piece of grass or shrub within 30 kilometers of the city,” Fuller says. “Contamination [with heavy metals] has been found as much as 60 kilometers away.”

5. Sukinda, India

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Home to one of the world’s largest chromite mines—used to make steel stainless, among other things—and 2.6 million people, the waters of this valley contain carcinogenic hexavalent chromium compounds courtesy of 30 million tons of waste rock lining the Brahmani River. “Hexavalent chromium is very toxic and very mobile,” notes David Hanrahan, Blacksmith’s London-based director of global programs.


4. Tianying, China

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The center of Chinese lead production, this town of 160,000 qualifies as one of the eight most polluted areas in the country, according to the Chinese government. Lead concentrations in the air and soil are 8.5 to 10 times above national health standards and lead dusts local crops at levels 24 times higher than such health standards.

3. Vapi, India

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This town at the end of India’s industrial belt in the state of Gujarat houses the dumped remnant waste of more than 1,000 manufacturers, including petrochemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals. “The companies treat wastewater and get most of the muck out,” Hanrahan says. “But there’s nowhere to put the muck, so it ends up getting dumped.”


2. Sumqayit, Azerbaijan

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Yet another heir to the toxic legacy of Soviet industry, the city of 275,000 souls bears heavy metal, oil and chemical contamination from its days as a center of chemical production. As a result, local Azeris suffer cancer rates 22 to 51 percent higher than their countrymen and their children suffer from a host of genetic defects ranging from mental retardation to bone diseases.

1. Chernobyl, Ukraine

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The fallout from the world’s worst nuclear power accident continues to accumulate, affecting as many as 5.5 million people and leading to a sharp rise in thyroid cancer. The incident has also blighted the economic prospects of surrounding areas and nations due to their agricultural heritage.

Listverse Staff

Listverse is a place for explorers. Together we seek out the most fascinating and rare gems of human knowledge. Three or more fact-packed lists daily.

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  • Sarah

    First! Great list too

  • Joni

    It’s tragic how many lives are still affected by the Soviet’s manic industrial craze.

  • Joni: yeah – and China and India aren’t doing a lot better!

  • downhighway61

    not that this compares, but newark, new jersey.
    every time i get off a plane in newark i really have to suppress the urge to throw up. i’m not kidding. it smells terrible there! all you see are smoke stacks.

  • BrotherMan

    This is list is very informative and yet very sad to look at. Somehow I knew that Chernobyl would be first.

    I found some website a long time ago that had a huge collection of pictures that someone took on their trip to Russia. Can anyone help me find it?

    I thought that it was http://www.abandonedbutnotforgotten.com but I guess that I was wrong

  • BrotherMan

    Forgot to mention that it had a ton of pictures of Chernobyl

  • downhighway61

    and out of curiosity, do people live near chernobyl?
    i can’t even imagine all of this devastation….

  • BrotherMan: I think I have seen the site – the photographs was incredibly moving. Unfortunately I can’t remember the URL either.

    downhighway61: I haven’t been there but I will scratch it from my “places to go list” now :)

  • downhighway61: I don’t think they do – the nearest town (?) Pripyat is also abandoned as a result of it.

  • downhighway61

    to be fair to the state of new jersey, anything near NYC smells and look terrible. north western jersey is not that bad. pleasant even.

  • BrotherMan

    I found it. Here it is:

    http://www.kiddofspeed.com/

    This has an extensive collection on the true aftermath of Chernobyl. It is literally a ghost town just like the site states. People just up and left everything. This is a pretty moving website.

  • downhighway61: I was just watching a special on the History channel, and no, people don’t live near Chernobyl. There are scientists and such that are there to study it, but basically it has been untouched by people since the tragedy there occurred.

    If anyone gets the chance to watch the Life After People special they aired, do it! It was really fascinating!

  • albert0

    I agree that chernobyl is terrible but #7 is just shocking. During the day and all you see is a smoke screen? thats just terrible!

  • Stormy617

    BrotherMan: I think I know what site you are talking about. The pictures were taken by a girl that rode through there on a motorcycle?

    About a week after I found the pictures when i tried to go back and the site was gone. I think that it was hosted by that girl maybe she couldn’t afford to keep the site up.

    That site was great the pics and the narrative. She told how you had to stay on the road and actually in the middle of it really to avoid radiation that is soaked into the ground there. There were pictures of the insides of some of the houses that still had everything sitting out like plates of food on the tables and stuff like that where people dropped everything and took off.

    • Juri

      I think I found that site when I was searching for another site thru google. Google Chernobyl and you should be able to find it again. I'm sorry, but I forgot to make a note of the url, but this was just a few days ago so the site should still be up.

  • Stormy617

    Hey great I am glad to see that site again. Thank you brotherman maybe there were just problems with the site when i tried to go back to it. This was actually a couple of years ago when i found that site and i was really bummed that i couldnt access it again as a number of people that I had talked to about the site were very interested in seeing it

  • BrotherMan

    Stormy617:

    She said on the site that occasionally it goes down due to the amount of traffic. Hopefully this site will help her website too.

  • Mystern

    Wow. And I thought Los Angeles was bad.

  • Stormy617

    Yea I was just reading on it and I think that what i copied and pasted below is what happened when i had visited the site before because it was hosted by angelfire when i first looked at it and even though it was a few years ago i think I got an error page that said the site no longer existed. I must have visited it right before she got disgusted with Angelfire.

    “Then Angelfire began plastering the site with banner ads shamelessly trying to make money off the site. This is the point at which Elena shut the site down, not because she had anything to hide. “

  • HexenBexen

    I’m so glad I live in Canada.

  • BrotherMan

    Thank you Stormy

    I hope that all of you enjoy the site as I do.

    I apologise for taking over the comments.

  • DanOhh

    For everyone that was looking for photos I found a site the has recent photos (Aug ’07) of the abandoned cities of Chernobyl and Pripyat:

    http://brokenkites.com/pripyat/

  • SubliminalDeath666

    China, Russia, and India are at a tie in the pollution contest.

  • Hitesh

    Man I would love to visit Chernobyl one day. Do Easyjet fly out there yet?

  • Johnny Razor

    No Houston?

  • Brotherman: I know what site you are talking about, I have visited it befrore but can not remember the URL. I desided to look at the site you have posted and when I visited the Ohio section, I was surprised by all the buildings that I know and drive past regularly. Including the plant that I live just up the road from. Just wow.

  • chsrocket47

    when i think of improving pollution in the world i always look to the United States and think of all the improvements we need. i often overlook places like these

  • joanne

    hi jfrater! nice list! do you also have the top 10 worst nuclear disasters? i think it will be interesting to have one :)

  • Greg Gilbert

    In the case of Chernobyl it’s interesting that while the radioactivity is measurably harmful to wildlife, human presence is worse. (As noted above from Life After People) A summary by the BBC can be found at http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6946210.stm

    Googling chernobyl wildlife will find lots of stuff on this.

  • Lauren

    Anyone see “Life After People” on the history channel the other day? Lots of interesting video recently taken in Chernobyl. Very sad.

  • goof_ball

    EEEEEEWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Snagglefrog

    Thank you for that link, BrotherMan. It is just incredible to see the photos and whatnot.

  • Subliminaldeath: Bad news for pretty much all of Asia then.

    How depressing…especially the photos.

    Weird though, I’m watching “Life After Humans” on the History Channel which features Chernobyl. I didn’t really know very much about it before I started watching this program.

  • I actually worked for months at Vapi over a period of 3 years..

    Every evening, the fertilizer plants there vent their tanks holding waste chemicals. A thick layer of haze blankets the roads near the factories, and even if you breath as shallow as possible, you still are very close to puking. Every.single.day.

    The first time I went to Vapi – on day 2, I was sitting in the office when I passed out and then woke up and puked right there. Spent the next two days in bed racked with fever.

    That’s how bad No. 3 is. I shudder to think what #2 and #1 are like.

  • chachachano

    people killing people
    people killing the world….

    niiiceeee…. =(

  • Chandy16
  • This list sucks balls. Chernobyl at number 1? Seriously? Where’s my brothers bedroom ffs?

    haha, just kidding of course ;) , nice list. I’ve seen that site with the Chernobyl pictures before. It’s kind of scary when you see how things were just dropped and left…

    Chernobyl was such a waste of life. Those assholes who decided it’d be a good idea to push the reactor should be shot. No-one else is to blame for it but them. Retards.

  • jrjb

    I agree with AlbertO #7 (and #4) looks frightning to try and survive there. Those guys riding their bikes look like their heading into a thunderstorm or tornando touching down.

    Listening to some heavy metal causes contamination of the ears…..

    JFrater: Didn’t surprise me to see China and India on the list considering their quest for superpower status (looks like at any cost, though I don’t know much about India’s status).

    I’m guess you could do a list on Russia’s nuke cities too.

  • Bego —BOSNIA—

    USA is very claen country, aha aha ahha

  • Rocky

    Brotherman: Thanks for posting that web address; I saw that website a few years ago and completely forgotten about it. The pictures are incredibly haunting; much like a website I saw that had archive photos of Nagasaki in the wake of the atomic bomb. Powerfully disconcerting.

  • ringtailroxy

    concerning those talking about “Life After People”

    i was intrigued, so I DVR’d it. (in HD, nonethe less)

    and you know what? my man and I found it BORING. seriosuly. of course the planet would retake everything, and it would eventually look as if we where never here.

    my problem with the show? 1 thing. only 1. One BIG thing.

    how the hell can all the people disappear and nothing else is touched by any natural or man made disaster? at the begining of the program, the house had a rumbled bed, a table set for breakfast, and it was like “POOF!” and all human life just was atomized?

    the only, and ONLY explaination for this is the “Rapture” that is soo propunded by religious zealots, especially of the Christian persuasion. (you know, the story that Jebus will return and raise the dead, then the believers, then cast all non-believers in to the lake of fire…)

    sorry, but that single element completely threw me off the entire show. if something did happen to exterminate humans, it would have to have some other effect on the world around us. natural law dictates this.

    if anyone has any other suggestions as to what would cause 6.4 billion individuals to magically disappear without any trace in the environment of what caused their demise, and without affected any other species,let me know!

    ringtailroxy

  • Mystern

    Ringtailroxy: Aliens?

  • Charly

    Now, this is one excellent list, amazing, the photos can say more than a thousand words… its really sad…

  • MzFly

    Wow. Very informative list. Really sad to see all of these places contaminated by humankind. Sadder still, is that some people continue to defend and positively promote the industries responsible for most of this mess.

  • copperdragon

    great list!

    how about a list of the top 10 polluted cities/places in US?

  • heatherrr.

    what a heartbreaking list. i wonder how much industrialized nations like the US actually have to do with the pollution of other poorer countries/towns…with the mining and such. i’m sure if it wasn’t for our disgusting rates of consumerism, some of these places might be better off. not that the US is entirely to blame that is..

    http://www.storyofstuff.com

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  • eric

    What about Lake Karachay in Russia, near to the place where the Majak catastophy happened in the 1950s? It is consideres the most polluted place in the world, because the radiation is letal if you stay there longer for more than few minutes. And it is not sure that the radioactive doesn’t leak out into the Arctic Ocean…

  • Juddacus

    Chongqing, China….. is now China’s fastest growing city with 37 Million……

    I just want to say I’ve been there for six months, ive seen the moon five times. The sky becomes brown…. and of course the Yanze River is brown

  • Fallenangel

    WoW I never realizes Russia was SO polluted. Wasn’t the Chernobyl incident in PriPyat? the reactor was called Chernobyl not the town. Or is it a ‘sub-city’ ?

  • Godofredo Arauzo

    POLLUTION TO THE OROYA CITY

    The years 2006 and 2007 the Blacksmith Institute have accomplished a research about the cities more contaminated to the world and arrived to the conclusion that the Oroya City was between the 10 cities more polluted of the world: Blacksmith Institute have be benevolent; according to my researchs to many years that I am publishing, the Oroya is the more polluted to Peru, Latin America and of the world and every day is being more polluted: lead in blood in children in the Ancient Oroya in average 53.7 ug/dl ( DIGESA 1999); pregnancies women 39.49 ig/dl ( UNES 2000), new borns children 19.06 ug/dl, puerperal 319 ug/100 grams/placenta ( Castro 2003) and workers 50 ig/dl ( Doe Run 2003). Top lead in blood accepted 10 ug/dl; present day is 0 ug/dl ( Pediatric of Academy to USA)
    When the Oroya city was in hands to the CentroMin eliminated only by the upper chimney to 167.500 meters, in average by day in tons: sulfur dioxide 1000, lead 2500, arsenic 2500, cadmium, particulate matter 50 and so on, more 24,000 to toxis gas product to the incomplete combustion of the coal, without count it is eliminated by industrial incinerator y by the 97 smalls chimneys, it is estimated 15,000 (PAMA . El Complejo Metalúrgico de la Oroya, 1996); they add 45,000 tons by day,

    Doe Run envoy every three months the concentrations of the heavy metals to the Ministry to the Energy and Mines and with the sames datums Ceverstav have demostrated the pollution was increased; for example the sulfur dioxide it have increased in near to 300 %, by increment to the production (Cederstav. La Oroya no Espera 2002)

    The American Assotiation to the Environment say that the environmental quality to the Oroya it is serius deteriorated since that Doe Run was owner and the same enterprise
    declared that the concentrations of the heavy metals gas it is ncreased in the air: lead 1160 %, cadmium 1990 % and arsenic 6006 % (Portugal, et al. Los Humos de Doe Run 2003)

  • yiyiyaya

    By the end of 2007 lin fen, tai yuan,yang quan and other two cities in shanxi were out of the top ten most polluted city in china. So how did that come out that linfen is still on the list at the 7th place???

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  • From Kiev (Ukraine)

    to (#49.) Fallenangel
    Prip’yat’ and Chernobyl are the largest dead cities. There are also small towns and villages there. An area within a radius of 30 kilometres is called “enclosed zone” (if I translated correctly). No one lives there axcept some recluses.

    Look at this! Someone filmed cat-fishes in Prip’yat’-river. They are realy about 3 or 4 meters long.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLIJ1mKcfpg

  • And yet people think we have problems with pollution here in the us! Haha.

  • 0086

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYkVatvFLsg

    A documentary style video that is of both Chernobyl & (mostly) Pripyat, August 2007, if you’re interested.

  • Jacob

    Damn, and here I was thinking of Tijuana, Mexico…Little did I know…

  • Redder313

    Chernobyl is such an eerie place.I played Call of Duty 4 and went through the Chernobyl mission.I later watched a documentary regarding the city and it was an exact replica.I didn’t beleive it at first because abandoned theme parks and orphanages are the kind of things that are almost cliche in movies.

    COD is eerily accurate.

  • Rinneganleks

    Philippines is the most polluted place here in the world. I swear.

    • filboy

      After the oil spill, shouldn't the entire US be included in this list, the way you generalized the Philippines as the most polluted place in the world? And by the way, you have the most polluted fart in the world which either comes out of your anus or your mouth. I suggest that you also be included in this list, lol!

    • Emma

      Your face should be on the list, it’s the most polluted place here on earth.

    • Morcon

      Judging from your username, you must be an anime-obsessed teenager from the Philippines who’s living in Manila. Manila is polluted honestly, but not in all areas. But to generalize the Philippines?

    • joboflores1

      are you stupid?

    • Jericho

      manila might me polluted but not all part of the phillipines are polluted maybe corrupt but not polluted.

  • Riya B.

    when i showed this to my geography teacher and my entire class, we felt kinda left out of this list. we live in el paso texas, and we all kept saying the same thing: why isn’t el paso on this list?!? it was a half joke-half truth thing…

  • Diogenes

    What are we doing?!

  • Vera Lynn

    I knew Chernobyl would be #1. I know a guy from there. The whole town was erased from the Rossian maps.
    Bhopal(sp?) was awful, too. The pix I have cannot be looked at without crying. It’s all bad.

  • Vera Lynn

    I mean “Russian”. But you knew that.

  • ChieptSlite

    How i may contact the administrator of a site? I have a question.

  • luckydog

    Ya. Where is Mexico?

  • Mark

    Bhopal? And Chornobyl at #1? *yawn*, get over it :|

  • SunnySide

    Expected Chernobyl at 1. Vapi, being the chemical hub of Asia, is bound to be one of the nastiest, most polluted place on earth.

  • LK

    Thanks ListVerse for having a list like this. . . I now have an idea about my Pollution research topic.

    But according to the original report at blacksmithinstitute.org, the Top Ten were NOT ranked, and in that site, they were listed alphabetically. . . Oh well. . .

    To Rinneganleks:
    Not the entire Philippines. Oh dear. But in the Dirty Thirty (alos in the Blacksmith Institute), the Meycauayan City and Marilao in the Philippines are included. But don’t be sooooooo pessimistic. >_<

  • saber25

    Ok here is one from the Phil. in Manila, it’s capital, is one polluted place too.

  • saber25

    @ Rinneganleks (57):
    Not all, go here in Palawan, see if it is polluted. You’ll see that you are soooooooooo wrong. I swear, you’re face is gonna be polluted with black eyes and pasa.

  • lizaaa

    you people who think of new york as only new york city REALLY need to look things up. There is westchester, port-chester (where im from), queens, the bronx, tarrytown, spooky shadows…etc. New York is BEAUTIFUL!!!! i LOVE it!!! Its not polluted. its mostly in the city because of all the cars the snow looks disgusting. n all it smells like is cars!!!! okay??? n wats bad are these photos!! its horrible!!

  • DCW

    i agree that india is 1 of the polluted countries.However,i believe that china should be the 1st not ukraine.Instead ukraine could be the 2nd

  • BlueButterflies

    New Jersey did not make the list? j/k

  • Msbinks

    It’s pretty disgusting to think that cities and villages were ever allowed to get that polluted (exception being chernobyl as it was an accident) it’s everyones fault the world is being completely fucked up and destroyed. A single raindrop doesn’t think it’s responsible for the flood.

  • Juri

    Btw, go to youtube and look for the "Life In The Dead Zone" documentary. It's amazing just how much animal and plant life exists around Pripyat and the surrounding villages; humans can't live there, but nature has taken the place over. There are deer, wild boar, wolves and wild horses living there, as well as birds of prey, snakes and feral cats that are descended from the abandoned domestic cats that were left behind when the zone was evacuated. It's pretty humbling to think that we can't live there, but nature can.

  • Interesting to see how CO2 isn’t considered as a pollutant on this list :D

  • SHETMOOHERKACKER

    WUZZZZZ P PIGGGGRT

  • Plod

    Why are most of them in Asia

  • sanjeev

    Indian people are worst on themselves..They are just piece of shit….

  • BreK

    Name

  • Eric

    and no american cities on this list??? you got to be kiddin me!

  • I believe an honorable (unhonorable in this case) should go to Cubata~o here in brazil. Back in 1980s i think it would be only under Chernobyl on this list. look at this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubat%C3%A3o or if you dont trust wikipedia just google up cubatao pollution or cubatao brazil. You see what mean. Oh and search images from the 80s because happily from then to now the pollution has fallen more than 90%

  • pakeloDalge

    Name

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