Heaps of rusted barrels for chemical substances and other rubbish may be observed everywhere in Dzerzhinsk, the city of chemical industry. The city was one of the Soviet Union's most important chemical weapons producers, and the Dzerzhinsk's environmental agency estimates that almost 300,000 tons of chemical waste were dumped between 1930 and 1998. The US Blacksmith Institute has named the city one of the most polluted in the world, citing lead, sarin, lewisite, sulfur mustard, hydrogen cyanide and phosgene as the worst pollutants. Gennady Popov/ITAR-TASS/Newscom/FILE
The city of Norilsk, Russia houses the world's largest heavy metals smelting complex. The smelting process is directly responsible for severe pollution, generally acid rain and smog. By some estimates, 1 percent of the entire global emissions of sulfur dioxide comes from this one city. Heavy metal pollution near Norilsk is so severe that it is now economically feasible to mine the soil, which has been polluted so severely that it has economic grades of platinum and palladium. Newscom/FILE
A child waves to motorists during the fume-laden evening rush hour traffic on Sept. 23 in the Indian capital shortly after a parliamentary report said New Delhi was the world's fourth-most polluted city, with 200,000-odd vehicles and factories spewing out 2,000 tons of fumes every day. Although stiff anti-polution norms have been imposed, critics say the efforts are being undermined by lax monitoring and corruption. AFP/Newscom/FILE
In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power station, in Pripyat, then a part of the Soviet Union, exploded causing fifty tons of uranium fuel from the reactor core to vaporize immediately. The vaporous uranium was then blasted high into the atmosphere and over 900 tons of radioactive material was dispersed into the area around the reactor. The city of Pripyat (pictured), with a population of about 50,000, was abandoned following the disaster. Vadim Morozov/Foto S.A/Newscom/FILE
A camel-mounted tourism policeman in the Giza Plateau silhouettes against the pollution smog covering the city of Cairo. The city's heavy pollution is attributed to the seasonal burning of rice straws to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan, the daily open-air incineration of 12,000 tons of domestic refuse, in addition to the emission of polluting substances from industries and more than 1.6 million vehicles in Cairo and adjacent neighborhoods. Cris Bouroncle/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom/FILE
A resident of La Oroya, more than 150 km east of Lima, Peru, peers from the roof of his house, close to the smelter La Oroya Mellaurgic Complex - owned by the US Doe Run Company. The 63,000 residents of La Oroya have a strong economic link with the smelter and refuse to search for a better place to live despite the high levels of lead in their blood. Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Newscom/FILE
A cyclist crosses a street in Linfen on January 6, in northern China's Shanxi province, a city notorious for its pollution and deadly mining accidents and now having trouble finding willing candidates for mayor and Communist Party chief, state media reported on April 1. The two top posts have been vacant since September in Linfen, regularly cited as one of China's most polluted cities, when their former occupants were sacked over a mining disaster that killed 270 people, state media said. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Newscom
La Haina, a port town 30-minutes from Santo Domingo, is heavily contaminated by lead most likely originating from the nearby Baterias Meteoro, a closed automobile battery recycling center. The city was named one of the most polluted cities on earth by the US-based Blacksmith Institute, an environmental group. Newscom/FILE
This former uranium ore processing facility in the Dzhalal Abad Region of Kyrgyzstan was churning radioactive waste until the 1960s and had left behind 23 tailings dumps with more than three million cubic feet of dangerous waste. The toxic deposits threaten to flow into a nearby river and downstream to a town unless significant investments are made to contain them. Vyacheslav Oseledko/ITAR-TASS/Newscom/FILE
Plagued by asbestos, the mining town of Libby Mont. completed a major park; part of a $447 million cleanup.
Matthew Brown, Associated Press /
July 15, 2012
Grass and freshly planted trees are sprouting in a new town park that sits atop the site of a vermiculite plant that once spewed asbestos dust across the mountain community of Libby — a welcome dose of normalcy for a city that has become synonymous with lung disease and death.