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Jasmin Mehovic for Sarid, October 18, 2006

The Blacksmith Institute, an international environmental action group, today named the world's 10 most polluted places, where environmental degradation is affecting a total of 10 million people.

The report was compiled by a team of international environment and health experts, including specialists from Johns Hopkins, Harvard University, IIT India, University of Idaho, Mt. Sinai Medical Center and City University of New York.

Nominations, collected over the past six years, came from local communities, non-governmental organizations and the environmental authorities. The criteria included the size of the affected population and existing and reliable evidence of health impact.

The ten places on the list for 2006, in alphabetical order by country, are:

  • Linfen, China; More than 200,000 affected people. Pollutants include fly-ash, carbon monoxide, Nitrogen oxides, PM-2.5, PM-10, Sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, arsenic, lead.
  • Haina, Dominican Republic; 85,000 affected people due to severe lead contamination.
  • Ranipet, India; 3,5 million affected people. Pollutants include tannery waste, containing hexavalent chromium and azodyes.
  • Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan: 23,000 who need immediate medical attention, with millions who are potentially affected. Pullutants include radioactive uranium mine tailings. Heavy metals, and cyanides.
  • La Oroya, Peru; 35,000 affected people. Pollutants include lead, copper, zinc, and sulfur dioxide.
  • Dzerzinsk, Russia; 300,000 affected people. Pollutants include chemicals and toxic byproducts from Cold War-era chemical weapons manufacturing; Lead.
  • Norilsk, Russia; 134,000 affected people. Pollutants include sulfur dioxide, heavy metals (nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, selenium), particulates, nitrogen and carbon oxides, phenols, hydrogen sulfide.
  • Rudnaya Pristan, Russia; 90,000 affected people. Pollutants include lead, cadmium, mercury, antimony.
  • Chernobyl, Ukraine; Over 5.5 million affected people. Pollutants iclude iranium, Plutonium, Radioactive Iodine, Cesium-137, Strontium, and other metals. 
  • Kabwe, Zambia; 250,000 affected people. Pollutants include lead and cadmium. 

"Living in a town with serious pollution is like living under a death sentence," the report says. "If the damage does not come from immediate poisoning, the cancers, lung infections and mental retardation are likely outcome."

The World Heath Organization notes that more than 20 percent of premature deaths in the developing countries are directly attributed to environmental pollution and related health effects.

"Our goal is to instill a sense of urgency about tackling these priority sites," says Dave Hanrahan, Blacksmith Institute's chief of global operations.

Richard Fuller, director and founder of the Blacksmith Institute, hopes that the report will bring forth attention to the urgency of the situation as well as illuminate the remedies, noting that there are practical and proven solutions for these problems: "Our experience shows that when you bring together governmental agencies, technical expertise, funding resources and local champions you can make a real and measurable difference."

As problems in most of these places, situated far from big cities and inhabited by extremely poor people, are little known -- even in their own countries -- the Institute will circulate the report to development agencies and governments, working to place clean-up on the policy agenda and to increase funding necessary for a comprehensive action.

The Blacksmith Institute recognizes that the list is not definitive due to the lack of consistent data and access to a number of different sites. However, it stresses that the report is a clear representative of this problem.


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