Untreated sewage and mercury-contaminated sludge flow into a water system at Sumgayit, See a map of Azerbaijan.)
A major industrial center of the former Soviet Union and erstwhile home to more than 40 chemical factories, Sumagayit was recently named one of the ten most polluted cities in the world by the nonprofit Blacksmith Institute.
At their peak of production, the town’s factories released as much as 120,000 tons of harmful emissions annually, exposing workers and residents to high levels of contaminants, the institute said.
A study conducted by the Azerbaijani government and the UN revealed that cancer rates in Sumgayit are 22 to 51 percent higher than in rest of the country.
Workers dump waste at Vapi, a town in western India that marks the southern end of the country’s “Golden Corridor”a 400-kilometer (245-mile) stretch of industrial sites that manufacture petrochemicals, pesticides, dyes, paints, and fertilizers. (See a map of India.)
A survey by the Indian government revealed that the sites lack a proper system for disposing of industrial waste, which often contains high levels of heavy metals and cyanide, among other contaminants.
A new list issued by the nonprofit Blacksmith Institute places Vapi in the top ten of the most polluted regions in the world.
Vapi’s distance from sources of clean water has forced residents to consume the town’s contaminated water, the institute said.
As a result, incidences of respiratory diseases, carcinoma, skin and throat cancers, birth defects, and infertility are high in Vapi, the nonprofit added.
The city, once the country’s Cold War headquarters for producing chemical weapons, was recently added to the Blacksmith Institute’s list of the world’s ten most polluted places.
Dzerzhinsk remains an important hub of chemical manufacturing.
Babies born here have birth defects at three times the national rate, the institute said on its Web site. A quarter of these babies will likely grow up and work in factories that still spew toxic chemicals, it added.
Dzerzhinsk’s average life expectancy is 42 years for men, well below the national average of about 58.
No major initiative to combat the pollution and health problems is underway, according to the New York-based institute.
Decades of unregulated lead mining have led to widespread poisoning in residents exposed to soil and water.
The New York-based Blacksmith Institute added the city to its list of the ten most polluted places for 2007.
Blood lead levels in children, who often bathe in contaminated water and play in the soil, are high enough to be potentially fatal, the institute reported on its Web site.
Although a local nonprofit educates families about avoiding lead exposure, entire communities may have to relocate, the institute said.
More than 1,300 Soviet military helicopters, buses, bulldozers, and other equipment were used and contaminated while responding to the April 26, 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl.
The disaster’s residual effects and its potential for future environmental and health damage has landed Chernobyl on the New York-based Blacksmith Institute’s 2007 list of the ten most polluted sites.
A hundred times more radiation was released during the meltdown of Chernobyl’s reactor than was contained in the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The event created a spike in thyroid cancers among children and led to innumerable respiratory ailments, infertility cases, and birth defects in local residents.
Today a 19-mile (31-kilometer) exclusion zone around the reactor remains largely deserted.
The Sukinda valley contains 97 percent of the country’s deposits of chromite a source of chromium and is the site of one of the largest open-cast chromite ore mines in the world.
A list issued by the nonprofit Blacksmith Institute cites the region as one of the most polluted in the world.
Twelve mines operate in Sukinda, generating about 30 million tons of waste rock and contaminating more than 60 percent of the water resources with hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen, the institute said on its Web site.
A state government study has also indicated that 85 percent of the deaths in the mining areas and nearby villages are due to chromite-mine related diseases.
The government reportedly stated that the situation in Sukinda “is unique, it is gigantic, and it is beyond the means and purview of the [Orissa Pollution Control] Board to solve the problem.”
The city is listed among the world’s ten most polluted places of 2007, according to the New York-based nonprofit Blacksmith Institute.
Linfen sits at the center of China’s prodigious coal industry, which is largely unregulated by the government. Residents describe choking on coal dust, and local health clinics have reported an upsurge in bronchitis, pneumonia, and lung cancer, according to the institute.
“The one thing that blew me away was in Linfen, three million people are affected by air pollution,” said William Suk, acting deputy director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
“People assume a lot of these sites are in the middle of nowhere, but they’re not.”
By the end of 2007, Linfen plans to shut down 57 of its 153 coal-producing plants, to be replaced with cleaner, regulated facilities, the institute’s Web site reported.
Russia‘s northernmost major city, Noril’sk pumps out more than two million tons of pollutants a year making it one of the ten most polluted spots in the world, according to the New York-based nonprofit Blacksmith Institute. (See a map of Russia.)
Mining and smelting began in Noril’sk in the 1930s, and the city now houses the world’s largest smelting complex for heavy metals.
Snow is often blackened with pollution, the air tastes of sulfur, and the life expectancy is up to ten years lower than the Russian average, the institute reported.
Noril’sk Nickel, the major firm operating in the town, says it has invested millions in its dust and gas recovery and removal systems, according to the institute.
The congested mining town of 35,000 nestled high in the Andes was recently added to the Blacksmith Institute’s list of the ten most polluted places in the world.
A metal smelter run by the Missouri-based Doe Run Corporation has operated in the remote settlement since 1922.
Exposure to the smelter’s pollution has led to dangerously high blood lead levels in nearly all of La Oroya’s children, according to the New York-based institute.
Lung ailments are widespread, and high numbers of premature death have been linked to the smelter’s emissions, the nonprofit reports on its Web site.
Likewise, acid rain from sulfur dioxide pollution has destroyed much of the vegetation in the area.
Doe Run says it has invested approximately 1 million U.S. dollars a year in a joint program with the Peruvian Ministry of Health to lower blood lead levels in the region.
The Blacksmith Institute, which collaborates with local agencies to fight pollution worldwide, compiled its annual list of the most polluted places through a nomination process.
The entries were then reviewed by a technical advisory board of medical and environmental experts.
William Suk, acting deputy director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, was not involved in the report.
“What the [Blacksmith Institute] has done is a good thing,” Suk told National Geographic News.
“They are trying to bring to the attention of the world that these sites exist.”
U.N. report warns toxic brown haze has devastating effect
November 14 2008
A noxious cocktail of soot, smog and toxic chemicals is blotting out the sun, fouling the lungs of millions of people and altering weather patterns in large parts of Asia, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations.
The byproduct of automobiles, slash-and-burn agriculture, cooking on dung or wood fires, and coal-fired power plants, these plumes rise over southern Africa, the Amazon basin and North America.
But they are most pronounced in Asia, where so-called atmospheric brown clouds are reducing sunlight in many Chinese cities and leading to decreased crop yields in swaths of rural India, say a team of more than a dozen scientists who have been studying the problem since 2002.
“The imperative to act has never been clearer,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, in Beijing, identified as one of the world’s most polluted cities and where the report was released.
The brownish haze, sometimes in a layer more than a mile thick and visible from airplanes, stretches from the Arabian peninsula to the Yellow Sea. During the spring, it sweeps past North and South Korea and Japan. Sometimes the cloud drifts as far east as California. The report identified 13 cities as brown-cloud hot spots, among them Bangkok, Thailand; Cairo, Egypt; New Delhi; Seoul, South Korea; and Tehran, Iran.
It was issued on a day when Beijing’s own famously polluted skies were unusually clear. On Wednesday, by contrast, the capital was shrouded in a thick, throat-stinging haze that is the byproduct of heavy industry, coal-burning home heaters and the 3.5 million cars that clog the city’s roads.
Last month, the government reintroduced some of the traffic restrictions that were imposed on Beijing during the Olympics; the rules forced private cars to stay off the road one day a week and sidelined 30 percent of government vehicles on any given day. Overall, officials say the new measures have removed 800,000 cars from the roads.
According to the U.N. report, smog blocks from 10 percent to 25 percent of the sunlight that should be reaching the city’s streets. The report also singled out the southern city of Guangzhou, where soot and dust have dimmed natural light by 20 percent since the 1970s.
In fact, the scientists who worked on the report said the blanket of haze might be temporarily offsetting some warming from the simultaneous buildup of greenhouse gases by reflecting solar energy away from the earth. Greenhouse gases, by contrast, tend to trap the warmth of the sun and lead to a rise in ocean temperatures.
“All of this points to an even greater and urgent need to take on emissions across the planet,” Steiner said.
Climate scientists say similar plumes from industrialization of wealthy countries after World War II probably blunted global warming through the 1970s. Pollution laws removed that pall.
Rain can cleanse the skies, but some of the black grime that falls to earth ends up on the surface of the Himalayan glaciers that are the source of water for billions of people in China, India and Pakistan. As a result, the glaciers that feed into the Yangtze, Ganges, Indus and Yellow rivers are absorbing more sunlight and melting more rapidly, researchers say.
According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, these glaciers have shrunk by 5 percent since the 1950s and, at the current rate of retreat, could shrink by 75 percent by 2050.
“We used to think of this brown cloud as a regional problem, but now we realize its impact is much greater,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, who led the U.N. scientific panel. “When we see the smog one day and not the next, it just means it’s blown somewhere else.”
Although the clouds’ overall impact is not entirely understood, Ramanathan, a professor of climate and ocean sciences at the University of California, San Diego, said they might be affecting precipitation in parts of India and Southeast Asia, where monsoon rainfall has been decreasing in recent decades, and central China, where devastating floods have become more frequent.
He said some studies suggested the plumes of soot that blot out the sun have led to a 5 percent decline in the growth rate of rice harvests across Asia since the 1960s.
For those who breathe the toxic mix, the impact can be deadly. Henning Rodhe, a professor of chemical meteorology at Stockholm University, estimates 340,000 people in China and India die each year from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases that can be traced to the emissions from coal-burning factories, diesel trucks and kitchen stoves fueled by firewood.
By Paul Eccleston
November 14 2007
Australians are the world’s worst polluters, according to a new ‘name and shame’ league table based on power station emissions.
Each Australian produces 11 tonnes of CO2 power sector emissions each year on a per capita basis. The United States comes second in the table on nine tonnes per person Britain is ranked 9th at 3.5 tonnes per person.
The findings are revealed in a huge survey of the CO2 emissions from 50,000 power plants worldwide by the Centre for Global Development (CGD) an independent think-tanked based in the US.
The on-line Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) database shows where the worst power station culprits are, who owns them and how much of the greenhouse gas they are pumping into the atmosphere.
It includes 4,000 power companies, and nearly 200,000 geographic regions in every country on earth. Visitors to the site can view carbon emissions data for the year 2000, the present, and future plans.
Power stations are the planet’s most concentrated source of greenhouse gases – one of the main factors in global arming – producing nearly 10 billion tons of CO 2 per year. The US, with over 8,000 power plants, accounts for about 25 per cent of the total or 2.8 billion tons.
Although the developing nations are among the worst offenders they have a far lower per capita rate. The average Chinese citizen produces two tonnes of CO2 from power generation annually while Indians only about half of one tonne per person.
Although no single country comes close to the 2.8 billion tons of CO 2 produced annually by the US power sector, other countries collectively account for three-quarters of all the power-related CO2 emissions.
China comes second with 2.7 billion tonnes, followed by Russia with 661m tonnes; India 583m tonnes; Japan 400m tonnes, Germany 356m tonnes, Australia 226m tonnes, South Africa 222m tonnes, the UK 212m tonnes and South Korea 185m tonnes.
Power generation accounts for about one-quarter of total emissions of CO2. Through the website people concerned about climate change can check on the emissions of their local power station.
CARMA was set up to help the drive towards less carbon-intensive power generation and reducing global warming which will hit poor people in developing countries the hardest.
The man who led the research, David Wheeler, a senior fellow at CGD, said: “CARMA makes information about power-related CO2 emissions transparent to people throughout the world. Information leads to action. We know that this works for other forms of pollution and we believe it can work for greenhouse gas emissions, too.
“We expect that institutional and private investors, insurers, lenders, environmental and consumer groups and individual activists will use the CARMA data to encourage power companies to burn less coal and oil and to shift to renewable power sources, such as wind and solar.”
Statistics for the UK show it has the 9th highest CO2-emitting power sector at 212,000,000 tonnes of CO2.
The Drax power station in Selby, Yorkshire is named as the biggest UK polluter producing 23,700,000 tonnes of CO2 annually making it the 23rd most polluting power station in the world.
It is followed in the UK by Longannet in Alloa, Scotland at 15,700,000 tonnes; Ratcliffe in the East Midlands at 12,800,000 tonnes; Fiddlers Ferry in the North West at 12,300,000 tonnes; and Cottam in the East Midlands at 12,300,000 tonnes.
The world’s worst pollution power plant is Taichung in the city of Lung-Ching in Taiwan which pumps out 41.3m tonnes of CO2 per year.
Taiwan and China have four of the top six worst polluting power plants
World’s 10 Worst Pollution Spots
NEW YORK, New York, October 18, 2006 (ENS)
The world’s 10 most polluted places threaten the health of more than 10 million people in eight countries, according to a report released today by a U.S. environmental action group. Three of the most polluted sites are in Russia, the report said, with the remaining seven located in China, Dominican Republic, India, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Ukraine and Zambia.
The report was released by the Blacksmith Institute and compiled by a team of international environment and health experts, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Mt. Sinai Medical Center and City University of New York.
“A key criterion in the selection process was the nature of the pollutant,” said Richard Fuller, director of Blacksmith Institute. “The biggest culprits are heavy metals – such as lead, chromium and mercury – and long-lasting chemicals – such as the `persistent organic pollutants.’ That’s because a particular concern of all these cases is the accumulating and long lasting burden building up in the environment and in the bodies of the people most directly affected.”
Children scavenging a mine in Kabwe, Zambia, one of the sites on the list. (Photo courtesy Blacksmith Institute)
With the exception of Chernobyl, the Ukranian site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, most of the locations on the list are little-known – even in their own countries.
The most-polluted sites primarily affect communities deep in poverty, the report said, but there are potential remedies.
“Problems like this have been solved over the years in the developed world, and we have the capacity and the technology to spread our experience to our afflicted neighbors,” the report said.
The list includes:
- the Chinese city of Linfen, located in the heat of the country’s coal region and chosen as an example of the severe pollution faced by many Chinese cities;
- Haina, Dominican Republic, the site of a former automobile battery recycling smelter where residents suffer from widespread lead poisoning;
- the Indian city of Ranipet, where some 3.5 million people are affected by tannery waste, which contains hexavalent chromium and azodyes.
- Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, home to a former Soviet uranium plant and severely contaminated with radioactive uranium mine wastes;
- the Peruvian mining town of La Oroya, where residents have been exposed to toxic emissions from a poly-metallic smelter;
- Dzerzinsk, Russia, the site of a Cold War-era chemical weapons facility;
A child stands on a battery casing in the Dominican Republic. The world’s most polluted sites all impact very poor communities. (Photo courtesy Blacksmith Institute)
- the Russian industrial city of Norilsk, which houses the world’s largest heavy metals smelting complex and where more than 4 million tons of cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, arsenic, selenium and zinc emissions are released annually;
- the Russian Far East towns of Dalnegorsk and Rudnaya Pristan, whose residents suffer from serious lead poisoning from an old smelter and the unsafe transport of lead concentrate from the local lead mining site;
- and the city of Kabwe, Zambia, where mining and smelting operations have led to widespread lead and cadmium contamination.
“Living in a town with serious pollution is like living under a death sentence,” the report said. “If the damage does not come from immediate poisoning, then cancers, lung infections, mental retardation, are likely outcomes.”
The report warns that there are some towns where life expectancy approaches medieval rates, where birth defects are the norm not the exception.”
“In other places children’s asthma rates are measured above 90 percent, or mental retardation is endemic,” it said. “In these places, life expectancy may be half that of the richest nations. The great suffering of these communities compounds the tragedy of so few years on earth.”
Blacksmith said it plans to circulate the report extensively to development agencies and local governments, working to place clean-up on the policy agenda in their respective countries and to initiate fundraising to help these regions.
Tannery runoff in India is polluting the water supply of some 3.5 million people. (Photo courtesy Blacksmith Institute)
“The most important thing is to achieve some practical progress in dealing with these polluted places,” says Dave Hanrahan, Blacksmith Institute’s chief of global operations. “There is a lot of good work being done in understanding the problems and in identifying possible approaches. Our goal is to instill a sense of urgency about tackling these priority sites.”
“This initial Worst-Polluted Places list is a starting point,” Hanrahan added. “We are looking to the international community and local specialists for feedback on the selection process and on our list. We want to make sure that the key dangerously polluted sites get the needed attention and support from the international community in order to remediate them.”