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Most Polluted Places in the World and the United States

My previous entry on Do you Love your Neighbor? lead me to wishing there was a service for eco-geeks to tell whether neighborhoods were polluted before moving there. It’s important information people would want to know, especially if they intended to settle and start a family there. I imagine such a site would be thrown into a lot of controversy, simply because it would be calling out many of the polluters.

In October 2006 Richard Fuller, founder and director of the Blacksmith Institute (the New York-based environmental group ), released a report of the worlds 10 most polluted places.

10 Most Polluted Places in the World


Linfen, China, where residents say they literally choke on coal dust in the evenings, exemplifies many Chinese cities.

Haina, Dominican Republic, has severe lead contamination because of lead battery recycling, a problem common throughout poorer countries.

Ranipet, India, where leather tanning wastes contaminate groundwater with hexavalent chromium, made famous by Erin Brockovich, resulting in water that apparently stings like an insect bite.

Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, home to nearly 2 million cubic meters of radioactive mining waste that threatens the entire Ferghana valley, one of the most fertile and densely populated areas in Central Asia that also experiences high rates of seismic activity.

La Oroya, Peru, where the metal processing plant, owned by the Missouri-based Doe Run Corporation, leads to toxic emissions of lead.

Dzerzinsk, Russia, one of the country’s principal chemical weapons manufacturing sites until the end of the Cold War.

Norilsk, Russia, which houses the world’s largest heavy metals smelting complex.

Rudnaya Pristan, Russia, where lead contamination resulted in child blood lead levels eight to 20 times maximum allowable U.S. levels.

Chernobyl, Ukraine, infamous site of a nuclear meltdown 20 years ago.

Kabwe, Zambia, where child blood levels of lead are five to 10 times the allowable EPA maximum.

The fact that Russian places are listed there three times makes me very sad for the Russian people. And the fact that Peru, known for beautiful Macchu Piccu is also listed makes me angry that we damage such beautiful country the way we do.

Granted many of these countries aren’t necessarily on our plate for consideration when it comes to moving.

America’s Most Polluted Cities in 2006

Los Angeles (Long Beach, Calif., Riverside, Calif.) This corridor of activity is already known as a terrible traffic area and a place of constant traffic choke points in more ways than one. It has all the ingredients for smog: lots of sunlight, heat, inversions, industrial emissions and gross amounts of truck, bus and car pollution.

Bakersfield, Calif. Route 99 and the not-far-away U.S. 5, when combined with California’s topography, make Bakersfield the No. 2 pollution champion. Along with the next three cities, it might be referred to as the smog gutter.

Fresno-Madera, Calif. Fresno and Madera share the pollution characteristics of Bakersfield and Los Angeles. As neighbors, they too share Route 99 and U.S. 5.

Visalia-Porterville, Calif. Visalia and Porterville have the dubious distinction of being nestled between Bakersfield and Fresno. They share their air “quality” and lie within the corridor that runs between the mountains of the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada.

Merced, Calif. Merced is at the north end of Route 99 and shares the pollution problems of Bakersfield, Fresno and Visalia. It is just one step short of Sacramento and further pollution.

Houston (Baytown, Huntsville, Tex.) Houston manages to break California’s winning streak to take the sixth position. Baytown and Huntsville are a considerable distance from central Houston and its spaghetti spread of highways like U.S. 610, U.S. 10 and U.S. 45.

Sacramento (Arden, Calif., Arcade, Calif., Truckee, Nev.) The state’s capital manages to take seventh place with its heavy traffic along U.S. 5, U.S. 80 and Route 50. It must be hard to enact pollution reduction legislation when your own city is a major polluter.

Dallas/Fort Worth – It almost seems as if all Texas roads lead to Houston and Fort Worth. U.S. 30, U.S. 20, U.S. 35 and U.S. 45 all converge on these cities, and they pay the price.

New York (Newark, N.J., Bridgeport, Conn.) New York and its New Jersey and Connecticut environs make the top ten list this year. The combination of a major port, Con Ed, U.S. 95, central city traffic and other emissions does the trick.

Philadelphia (Camden, N.J., Vineland, N.J.) This area is served by U.S. 295, U.S. 95, U.S. 476 and U.S. 76 and extends through parts of four states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. They add a yellow glow to the Philadelphia skyline.

America’s Most Polluted Cities in 2007

Rank Smog: Rank Particles:
1 Los Angeles (CA) 1 Los Angeles (CA)
2 Bakersfiled (CA) 2 Pittsburgh (PA)
3 Visalia-Porterville (CA) 3 Bakersfield (CA)
4 Fresno (CA) 4 Birmingham (AL)
5 Houston (TX) 5 Detroit (MI)
6 Merced (CA) 6 Cleveland (OH)
7 Dallas (TX) 7 Visalia (CA)
8 Sacramento (CA) 8 Cincinnati (OH)
9 Baton Rouge (LA) 9 Indianapolis (IN)
10 New York (NY) 10 ST Louis (MO)
11 Washington (DC), Baltimore (MD) 11 Chicago (IL)
12 Philadelphia (PA) 12 Lancaster (PA)
13 Modesto (CA) 13 Atlanta (GA)
14 Hanford (CA) 14 York (PA)
15 Phoenix (AZ) 15 Fresno (CA)
16 Charlotte (NC) 16 Weirton (WV)
17 Las Vegas (NV) 17 Hanford (CA)
18 Milwaukee (WI) 18 New York (NY)
19 St Louis (MO) 19 Canton (OH)
20 El Centro (CA) 20 Washington (DC) Baltimore (MD)
21 Kansas City (KS) 21 Charleston (WV)
22 Beaumont (TX) 22 Louisville (KY)
23 Chicago (IL) 23 Huntington (WV)
24 Grand Rapids (MI) 24 Philadelphia (PA)
25 Atlanta (GA) 25 Hagerstown (MD)
26 Cleveland (OH) 26 Rome (GA)

Source: The American Lung Association

I can’t say a lot of these results are surprising, though it’s disconcerting to see California on there so much. Fortunately none of these places were on my list of places to research for settling down. I much prefer the small town with beautiful countryside away from any major factories or factory farms.

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