The 25 Most Polluted Places On Earth

There are many ways you can classify pollution. It can be chemical, radioactive, or simply the presence of improperly disposed waste products. While some places, like Mexico City, have a very obvious problem with their heavy smog, do not be misled. The much more serene looking Lake Karachay in Russia would have you dead within an hour of sitting on its banks due to heavy radioactive contamination. So, whether the pollution is visible or not, take note because these are the 25 most polluted places on Earth.

25. La Oroya, Peru

The most recent addition to our list, the small Andean town of La Oroya has been home to a metal smelter run by Missouri based Doe Run Corporation since 1922. As a result nearly all the local children suffer from lead poisoning and respiratory complications. The Peruvian government has even been taken to court for crimes against humanity by various organizations.

24. Norilsk, Russia

This Siberian city houses an even larger smelting complex than La Oroya (it’s actually the largest in the world). Not surprisingly, the pollution here is so bad that the average life expectancy is up to 10 years less than the rest of Russia.

23. Citarum River, Indonesia

One of the world’s most polluted rivers, over 5 million people reside in its basin and rely on it as their primary water supply.

22. Kabwe, Zambia

After years of mining and processing both cadmium and lead are very common in the hills surrounding this Zambian city. In fact, the children here have been found to have 10 times the permissible EPA level of lead in their bloodstream. Moreover, the ground is barren and nothing will grow as a result of the contamination.

21. Riachuelo Basin, Argentina

Almost synonymous with pollution, the banks of the Riachuelo Basin in Argentina are lined by nearly 4,000 factories, 42 garbage dumps, and 13 slums. Definitely not a good combination when it comes to health and life expectancy.

20. Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan

As one of the largest dumps of radioactive waste in all of Asia, Mailuu-Suu is not only heavily contaminated but there are a series of unstable uranium tailing pits in the hills surrounding the city. Were these pits were to empty the result would be disastrous.

19. Sukinda, India

With upwards of a dozen mines operating in the regions without any significant level of regulation, the this Indian city has been listed as one of the most polluted in the world by the Blacksmith Institute.

18. Baku, Azerbaijan

Long an oil hub, Azerbaijan’s capital suffers from extensive pollution as a result of shipping and drilling.

17. Rondonia, Brazil

National Geographic

Although not polluted in the same sense as some of the other places on this list, Rondonia has been subjected to extensive deforestation in recent years and is now one of the most destroyed regions of the Amazon Rainforest.

16. Mexico City, Mexico

The fact that it is located in a volcanic crater surrounded by mountains only compounds Mexico City’s already troublesome pollution problem by trapping a thick layer of smog that hover over the city.

15. Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Whenever you cram 150 million people into an area the size of Bangladesh you are bound to have some waste management issues.c

14. Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Not only has the country as a whole been significantly destroyed by natural disasters and deforestation, but on top of all that it has on its hands a severe waste management crisis.

13. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

With a rapidly growing population, Dar es Salaam’s already strained water supply is only going to worsen. Moreover, as solid wastes continues to empty into the Msimbazi River, the prevalence of infectious disease will continue to increase.

12. Brazzaville, Congo

With an extremely contaminated water supply, the capital of the Congo has an extensive list of health and sanitation issues knocking at its door and its life expectancy is already one of the lowest in Africa.

11. Earth’s Orbit

If you have read our list on25 crazy facts about the universethen you know that the Earth is surrounded by nearly 4 million pounds of space debris. The image you see above was actually generated by NASA to show which ones are presently being tracked.

10. Yamuna River, India

As the largest tributary of the Ganges, scientists estimate that roughly 60% of Delhi’s waste gets dumped into the river. This doesn’t change the fact that almost all of its residents rely on it for water and bathing as well.

9. Tianying, China

Accounting for over half of China’s lead production, this city is home to some of the worst cases of lead poisoning in the world.

8. Sumgayit, Azerbaijan

As a result of outdated regulations, the 40 or so industrial complexes in the region have managed to created a severely toxic environment that has led to numerous health complications for residents.

7. Vapi, India

Situated at the end of a an extensive line of industrial complexes that stretch for hundreds of miles upriver, the level of mercury in Vati’s water supply is 96 times higher than anything considered safe.

6. Dzerzhinsk, Russia

Named the world’s most chemically polluted city by the Guinness Book of World Records, in recent years its death rate has overwhelmed its birth rate by more than 260%. It also has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world at roughly 45 years.

5. Lake Karachay, Russia

Used for years as nuclear dumping site by the Soviet Union, Lake Karachay has several times been declared the most polluted place on Earth. In fact, it has been said that just 1 hour of exposure here would be lethal.

4. Chernobyl, Ukraine

The site of the worst nuclear accident in history, after the Chernobyl Disaster in 1986 almost all of this town’s 14,000 residents moved away. Today it remains for the most part uninhabited due to radiation and fallout.

3. Linfen, China

It has been said that if you hang your laundry out here, it will be black before it can even dry. Although Linfen was long considered the world’s most polluted city, small improvements have been made in recent years.

2. North Pacific Gyre

You may have heard the horror stories about a trash dump twice the size of Texas floating out in the middle of the Pacific. While these are slightly exaggerated there actually is something out there known as the Pacific Trash Vortex. This is an extensive area in the North Pacific containing high levels of microscopic toxins, plastics, and chemical sludge. As a result of the rotating Pacific currents (known as gyres in oceanography) these have been “trapped” in the region. Contrary to popular myth though, it cannot be seen from space (or even from a boat for that matter) but this doesn’t change the fact that it is extremely damaging to the marine environment.

1. Ahvaz, Iran

According to the World Health Organization Ahvaz, Iran is now the most polluted city in the world, a problem that is only made worse by its constant dust storms.

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