Agbogbloshie, Ghana, home to the world's second largest electronic waste dump, is the most polluted place in the world.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

Citarum River, Indonesia

Dzerzhinsk, Russia

Hazaribagh, Bangladesh

Kabwe, Zambia

Kalimantan, Indonesia

Matanza-Riachuelo, Argentina

Niger River Delta, Nigeria

Norilsk, Russia

2013-12-09

Co.Exist

The 10 Most Polluted Places In The World

From Ghana's sprawling electronic waste dump to the gold mines of Borneo, these are places that you won't add to your bucket list of travel plans, but which are killing all the people who don't have a choice about living there.

The U.S. has some terribly polluted places. But it's safe to say there's nothing here to the level of Agbogbloshie, in Ghana, the world's second biggest electronic waste dump. Or Kalimantan, in Borneo, where mercury vapors--the byproduct of gold mining--fill the air. Or the Matanza-Riachuelo, in Argentina, where 15,000 factories dump effluent directly into the river.

A new report from the New York-based Blacksmith Institute and the Green Cross, a nonprofit in Switzerland, names the world's 10 most polluted places. While it doesn't make for pleasant reading, the report shines a light on an under-acknowledged problem. Environmental pollution is a major cause of disease, particularly among children, many of whom are running freely around places like Agbogbloshie. Up to 200 million people around the world are exposed to toxic chemicals regularly.

Here are the 10 most polluted places, and you can see images of the horror above.

  1. Agbogbloshie, Ghana: Lead. Up to 40,000 people affected.
  2. Chernobyl, Ukraine: Radioactive dust including uranium, plutonium, cesium-137, strontium-90, and other metals. Up to 10 million people affected.
  3. Citarum River, Indonesia: Numerous chemicals including lead, cadmium, chromium, and pesticides. 500,000+ people directly affected, up to 5 million people indirectly.
  4. Dzershinsk, Russia: Numerous chemicals and toxic byproducts from numerous chemical-manufacturing processes. 300,000 people affected.
  5. Hazaribagh, Bangladesh: Mainly Chromium. 160,000 people affected.
  6. Kabwe, Zambia: Lead. More than 300,000 people affected.
  7. Kalimantan, Indonesia: Primarily mercury, cadmium. More than 225,000 people affected.
  8. Matanza Riachuelo, Argentina: Volatile organic compounds, including toluene. More than 200,000 people affected.
  9. Niger River Delta, Nigeria: Petroleum. No one agrees on how many people are affected.
  10. Norilsk, Russia: Copper, nickel oxide, other heavy metals. 135,000 affected.

"The strikingly high number of people at risk established toxic pollution as a public health threat equivalent to more highly publicized public health problems such as malaria and tuberculosis," says the Blacksmith/Green Cross report. "Even though toxic pollution remains a far less well-known problem, it is believed to have a similar impact on death and disability in developing countries as many well-known and well-funded diseases."

Take a deeper look into the hellscape of the world's most polluted place with these images of Agbogbloshie.

Blacksmith/Green Cross says it chose the top 10 for "severity of their risk to health" and to draw attention to issues like e-waste and "artisanal" gold mining, which produces 30% of worldwide mercury emissions. Agbogbloshie and Kalimantan are not the sort of places you want to visit in a hurry, at least not without a mask. But spare a thought for the people who live there.

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6 Comments

  • David Addoteye

    America is clean because they have turn our country into a refuse dump, however i dont blame them. I blame our leaders who have turn into garbage collectors.

  • RamiroFerrer

    Well, something is not right here. There is not a single chance that Matanza-Riachuelo is worse than any other industrial compound in China. There are astounding size differences between the Chinese industrial behemoth and the Argentinian factories around Matanza-Riachuelo.
    And the population affected in Argentina is 20.000+ not 200.000+, which is not a small difference, either.

  • mcdargh

    To know is one thing. To do something about it is another. Just as many in the world community followed Nelson Mandela's lead in boycotting or creating sanctions against South Africa to end apartheid, where is the world community's anger here? What products do we in the U.S bbuy that are products leading to these toxic dumps? Until teh consumer says "no", toxicity remains. Now write that article!!