The 10 Most Toxic Places on the Planet

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Modern life has left our planet contaminated by all kinds of dangerous pollutants, but the chemical, agricultural and even nuclear garbage that mankind has dumped on these toxic wastelands is truly shocking. These ruined regions have suffered greatly at the hands of horrific ecological disasters and, perhaps deadliest of all, consumer greed. Grab your gas masks and get ready to visit the most poisonous places on the planet today.

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10. Hazaribagh – Bangladesh

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Hazaribagh’s 240 leather factories might be worth millions to the Bangladeshi economy, but they’ve also turned this busy industrial district into a toxic wasteland. The region’s tanneries continually spew huge amounts of industrial waste into the surrounding atmosphere – some of which is laced with the dangerous carcinogen chromium.

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10. Hazaribagh – Bangladesh

Hazaribagh residents living in the nearby slums are plagued by skin, lung and stomach disorders, while those inside the tanneries fare even worse. The majority of factory workers – a quarter of whom are children – aren’t expected to live to see 50, and all for a wage of less than $2 a day.

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9. La Oroya – Peru

Almost all of the children living in the Peruvian town of La Oroya have dangerously elevated levels of lead in their blood, and an American-owned mining plant is responsible. In 1997 US holding company Renco Group bought the smelter through its subsidiary Doe Run Peru, and allowed it to heavily pollute the surrounding neighborhood.

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9. La Oroya – Peru

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The poisonous plant pumped toxic levels of lead, sulfur dioxide, cadmium and arsenic into the air as well as contaminating La Oroya’s water and soil. Doe Run was fined $65 million for its environmental transgressions. Although the smelter closed in 2009 the mining town – and particularly its children – continue to suffer.

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8. Aral Sea – Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan

The Aral Sea, between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, used to be the fourth biggest lake on the planet but, thanks to Soviet irrigation schemes, it has been shriveling up at an alarming rate since the 1960s. Today nine tenths of the lake have dried up to reveal a huge, salty wasteland that is as large as the Netherlands.

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8. Aral Sea – Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan

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When the water receded not only did it devastate the region’s fishing industry and leave behind huge amounts of saline, it also uncovered a dangerously toxic seabed. Any agricultural and industrial chemicals that had been dumped in the water – as well as bacterial toxins such as anthrax – were now exposed and could be carried in huge dust clouds to neighboring villages.

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7. Citarum River – Indonesia

For decades people in Jakarta have been using the Citarum River as a giant trash can, reducing the once mighty Indonesian waterway into a floating carpet of garbage. Domestic waste such as diapers and takeaway cartons mix with the toxic chemicals and dyes dumped by more than 200 textile plants, turning the water multi-colored and creating a pungent smell.

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7. Citarum River – Indonesia

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The septic river has caused disease to flourish amongst the millions of people who depend upon it for drinking and farming. In 2008 a Citarum detox project received a $500 million loan from the Asian Development Bank, but more still needs to be done to educate the Jakarta people on the hazards of illegal dumping and the benefits of recycling.

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6. Yamuna River – India

The Yamuna River in India has become so dirty that an $850 million government renovation project still couldn’t make it clean again. The sacred river is a swirling mess of human, chemical and agricultural waste, with fish and vegetation suffocating under the puffs of toxic white foam that cover its surface.

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6. Yamuna River – India

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The huge Yamuna picks up all kinds of waste as it flows through several states in northern India. Eventually it reaches Delhi, where over 500 million gallons of untreated chemical sewage and household garbage are dumped into its waters from the capital territory’s many factories and drains.

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5. Niger River Delta – Nigeria

Since 1976 thousands of oil spills in the Niger Delta have caused carcinogenic levels of toxins to accumulate in the area’s water and soil. On average, an incredible 240,000 barrels of crude oil were leaked into the densely populated Nigerian region each over the course of two decades, with catastrophic consequences for both humans and wildlife.

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5. Niger River Delta – Nigeria

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Drinking water has been contaminated by hydrocarbons and benzene, while soil pollution runs 16 feet deep. In 2011 it was estimated that it could take 30 years and $1 billion to restore the region. Shell and other magnates have been held responsible for the crisis, but they in turn have blamed thieves who have broken into their pipelines.

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4. Kabwe – Zambia

On average, lead concentration levels in the blood of Kabwe children are five to ten times higher than the U.S. safe limit. Hazardous lead levels were first detected in the Zambian mining city in 1902, but copper smelters continued to operate unregulated until 1994. By the time they closed, lead toxins had permeated the region’s soil and water sources.

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4. Kabwe – Zambia

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Decades later, Kabwe children are still suffering from the region’s toxic past. Poisoning can occur from ingesting a contaminated water or food source, or simply from inhaling the polluted air. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning, which can include severe mental impairment, organ failure and even death.

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3. Linfen – China

Linfen’s citizens live under a constant cloud of soot and ash. Since the 1990s, hundreds of coal and metal producing plants have cropped up in the once fertile region, continually pumping pollution into the region from their mighty smokestacks. Linfen’s water is now contaminated with arsenic, while a more toxic lungful of air cannot be breathed anywhere in China.

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3. Linfen – China

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As a result, people living in Linfen suffer from a variety of respiratory illnesses, cancers, heart conditions and dermatological diseases. To make matters worse, the city’s huge factories are demanding much of the region’s water supply, so domestic water usage for the residents has been severely limited.

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2. Lake Karachay – Russia

Back in 1990 Russia’s Lake Karachay was so radioactive that even an hour spent at the water’s edge would have killed you. The lake was once part of the Soviet Union’s best kept nuclear secrets – the Mayak Production Association. At this top secret nuclear facility the Soviets experimented with deadly isotopes such as Strontium-90 for over 45 years.

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Image: via Lake Karachay

2. Lake Karachay – Russia

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Radiation was leaked from the complex in a series of industrial accidents, while Lake Karachay also became a nuclear dumping ground. When Mayak was finally disclosed in 1990 cancer rates had risen by a fifth in the neighboring city of Chelyabinsk. Lake Karachay was finally filled with concrete to keep a lid on the radioactive waste, but it remains toxic even today.

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1. Pripyat – Ukraine

Almost 30 years after the Chernobyl disaster the Ukrainian town of Pripyat is still unsafe for habitation. Pripyat was situated less than two miles from the Chernobyl power plant when it went into meltdown on April 26 1986, causing huge amounts of radioactive material to rain down on the Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and beyond.

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1. Pripyat – Ukraine

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In Belarus alone the disaster has been linked to an increase in infant mortality rates over the last three decades, as well as hundreds of thousands of cancers. While tourist visits to Pripyat are now permitted – at your own risk – it has been estimated that the most radioactive parts of Chernobyl will remain lethal for another 20,000 years.

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