Green Cross Switzerland in cooperation with the US-based Blacksmith Institute has issued its annual report on the world’s worst pollution problems, focusing in 2013 on the planet’s 10 most polluted places. These 10 sites are spread over eight countries.
The latest report shows that the health effects caused by environmental toxins can be equated to some of the most dangerous illnesses worldwide and even surpass them, threatening millions of lives. The World Health Organization estimates that 20% of deaths in developing countries are directly caused by environmental effects. It is also believed that almost one-fifth of cancer diseases worldwide are linked to environmental toxins. This conspicuously high percentage of assignable cancer deaths is even higher in developing countries. Pollution problems threaten the health of 200 million people worldwide.
According to Dr. Stephan Robinson, of Green Cross Switzerland, successful remediation efforts in places that ranked in the top-ten list in 2007 show that the fight against environmental pollution in developing countries can lead to significant health improvements, and even save the lives of people, especially children.
“The results confirm that the elimination of environmental toxins is challenging but not impossible. We need to mobilize the necessary funds and strengthen our commitment in order to act as quickly as possible,” says Robinson.
Nathalie Gysi, Executive Director of Green Cross Switzerland, added: “Bright spots like these should prompt governments to drive the funding of similar measures.”
This year’s report features a new top-10 list, from which locations identified in 2006 and 2007 have been eliminated due to robust remediation solutions, while new places from the ever expanding Toxic Sites Identification Program data base have been added.
Listed in alphabetical order by country, the 10 most polluted places of 2013 are:
- Matanza-Riachuelo, Argentina (VOC volatile organic compounds, especially toluene)
- Hazaribagh, Bangladesh (chrome)
- Agbogbloshie Dumpsite, Ghana (lead, cadmium, mercury)
- Citarum River, Indonesia (chemicals, such as lead, cadmium, chrome and pesticides)
- Kalimantan, Indonesia (cadmium, mercury)
- Niger River Delta, Nigeria (oil)
- Dzershinsk, Russia (chemicals, including sarin, lead and phenols as well as toxic byproducts)
- Norilsk, Russia (heavy metals)
- Chernobyl, Ukraine (radionuclides)
- Kabwe, Zambia (lead)
The selection of the 10 most dangerously polluted places is based on several key criteria. Firstly, this year’s top 10 list aims to re-visit the places that were listed among the most polluted in 2006 and 2007 and that haven’t made any significant progress in terms of environmental remediation. These are Dzershinsk and Norilsk, Russia, and Chernobyl, Ukraine, despite in some cases great remediation efforts whose impact will be felt in the coming years. The other places were selected using the Toxic Sites Identification Program, a database that was developed by the Blacksmith Institute in cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and in parts supported by funding from the European Commission, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.
The 10 most polluted places have pollution problems to which people are openly exposed. Places with pollutants affecting people through direct inhalation, food intake or skin contact were prioritized. They include lead, cadmium, chrome, oil, pesticides, phenols, mercury, sarin, radionuclides and VOCs. Also prioritized were those places where a large part of the population is affected by pollution problems. Finally, each pollutant was assessed based on information about its toxicity, carcinogenicity and potential health hazards. Information from the “worst pollution” lists of the US Environmental Protection Agency, the World Bank and several non-profit and non-governmental organizations were also taken into consideration.
Since 2007, the yearly environmental toxin reports have been instrumental in increasing public understanding of the health impacts of pollution sources, and in some cases, have even forced cleanup work at these sites. Previous reports have identified the worst toxic threats and the worst pollution problems. And the Environmental Toxin Report 2012 shows that the health impacts of industrial pollutants measured are roughly equal to those of the three major global infectious diseases (AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria).
Blacksmith Institute is an international non-profit organization dedicated to solving life-threatening pollution issues in the developing world. It addresses a critical need to identify and clean up the world’s worst polluted places. Blacksmith focuses on places where human health, especially that of women and children, is most at risk. Based in New York, Blacksmith works cooperatively in partnerships that include governments, the international community, NGOs and local agencies to design and implement innovative, low-cost solutions to save lives. Since 1999, Blacksmith has completed over 50 projects; Blacksmith is currently engaged in over 40 projects in 20 countries.
Green Cross Switzerland facilitates overcoming consequential damage caused by industrial and military disasters and the clean-up of contaminated sites from the Cold War period. It focuses on improving the quality of life for people affected by chemical, radioactive and other types of contamination, as well as promoting sustainable development in the spirit of co-operation instead of confrontation.
Green Cross International (GCI), founded by Mikhail Gorbachev, is an independent, charitable non-governmental organization that campaigns through high-level lobbying and local projects to overcome the interlinked global challenges of security, poverty reduction and environmental degradation. Based in Geneva, GCI maintains a growing network of national organizations around the world and is active in more than 30 countries.
- Dowload the 2013 report
- Press release in Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian
- Previous reports
- Fact sheets
- Green Cross Environmental Security and Sustainability (video)
Contact for more information
Dr. Stephan Robinson, Green Cross Switzerland
Mobile +41 (0) 79 625 64 67