World's Worst Polluted Places 2007

Environmental health organization Blacksmith has announced its 2007 top ten list of the "World's Worst Polluted Places." Topping the list is Sumgayit, Azerbaijan, followed by Linfen, China; Tianying, China; Sukinda, India; Vapi, India; La Oroya, Peru; Dzerzhinsk, Russia; Norilsk, Russia; Chernobyl, Ukraine; Kabwe, Zambia. From the description of Sumgayit's situation:

Potentially Affected People: 275,000

Type of Pollutants: Organic chemicals, oil, heavy metals including mercury.

Source of Pollution: Petrochemical and Industrial Complexes

The Problem:
Sumgayit was a major Soviet industrial center housing more than 40 factories manufacturing industrial and agricultural chemicals. These included synthetic rubber, chlorine, aluminium, detergents, and pesticides. While the factories remained fully operational, 70-120,000 tons of harmful emissions were released into the air annually. With the emphasis placed on maximum, low-cost production at the expense of environmental and occupational health and safety, industry has left the city heavily contaminated. Factory workers and residents of the city have been exposed to a combination of high-level occupational and environmental pollution problems for several decades.

Untreated sewage and mercury-contaminated sludge (from chlor-alkali industries) continue to be dumped haphazardly. A continuing lack of pollution controls, dated technologies and the improper disposal and treatment of accumulated industrial waste are just some of the issues that plague the city.

Health Impacts:
Sumgayit had one of the highest morbidity rates during the Soviet Era and the legacy of illness and death persist. A study jointly conducted by the UNDP, WHO, Azerbaijan Republic Ministry of Health and the University of Alberta demonstrated that residents of Sumgayit experience intensely high levels of both cancer morbidity and mortality. Cancer rates in Sumgayit are 22-51% higher than average incidence rates in the rest of Azerbaijan. Mortality rates from cancer are 8% higher. Evidence suggests that lower reported cancer rates are flawed as a result of underreporting.

A high percentage of babies are born premature, stillborn, and with genetic defects like Mongolism, anencephaly, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, bone disease, and mutations such as club feet, cleft palate, and four or six fingers or toes.


  1. Yeah, Down Syndrome would be the correct term. Here’s what has to say:

    Definition of Mongolism

    Mongolism: Obsolete name for Down syndrome.

    Down syndrome refers to the 19th century English physician J. Langdon Down who described the condition in 1866. In great error, Langdon Down attributed the condition to a “reversion” to the “mongoloid race.” He held that evolution had been reversed and there had been a sort of backslide from the superior Caucasian to the inferior Oriental race. The misnomer “mongolism” is incorrect and racist and is to be avoided.

  2. I haven’t asked DP, but I seriously doubt he deleted the term “Down Syndrome” from the list and replaced it with “Mongolism.”

  3. Makes the purchase of a Prius look a little like pissing in the wind doesn’t it?

    I’m surprised that the shipyards of Alang didn’t make the list.

  4. I was reading through the list, and it was like “Oh, that looks bad, that looks bad…”

    Then you get to number 9 on the list, which is CHERNOBYL! That really put the top 8 most polluted places into perspective for me.

  5. On the subject of Alang, go and take a look at it on Google Maps or Google Earth in satellite mode. It is rather impressively apocalyptic.

  6. Oh, don’t sweat it! I didn’t think you were giving me a hard time. I’m sure I’ll know when you are. : )

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