Worst polluted cities?

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Pollution rankings vary, but some cities consistently make the lists. Kabwe, Zambia has high levels of lead due to unregulated mining. Sumgayit, Azerbaijan has high cancer rates due to chemical production. Linfen, China is often the most polluted city with coal dust and arsenic in drinking water. Norilsk, Russia is heavily polluted from mining and smelting. Mexico City and Pittsburgh are also among the most polluted cities in North America.

There is no correct answer for which cities have the worst pollution. The lists can differ based on what is considered a pollutant or which pollutants are considered the worst. Water, soil and air pollution are bad, but whichever ranking you look at, some may be considered worse than others. However, some cities around the world tend to make many of the lists. At least in these cases, there is some consensus.

One such city is Kabwe, Zambia. This African city known for its lead and copper mines is also known for its pollution. As the mines operated without government environmental regulation for nearly a century, the toll on the local population began to show. Even with the mines no longer operating, children in and around the city show levels of lead five to ten times the amount considered acceptable by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Another city known for contamination is Sumgayit, Azerbaijan. It was one of the centers for the production of pesticides and other chemicals during the height of the Soviet Union, but that came at a cost. Hundreds of thousands of tons of chemicals have been released into the atmosphere as a result of the manufacturing process. Now, cancer rates in the city are among the highest in the world.

While much of the world has heard of the pollution problem in Beijing, China, it is the Chinese city of Linfen that is on almost every list of the most polluted cities, often taking the top spot. Clouds of coal dust often settle over the city, making breathing difficult. That may be the least of Linfen’s concerns, however, as arsenic in drinking water may be the worst of concerns.

Besides being one of the coldest major population centers in the world, Norilsk, Russia, located in Siberia, is also one of the dirtiest. The city has been polluted by the smelting and mining of heavy metals. In fact, the city is so polluted that there are said to be not a single living tree within 30 miles (48 km). Life expectancy in the city is 10 years lower than the Russian average.

In North America, two of the most polluted cities are Mexico City, Mexico, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One of Mexico City’s biggest problems is simply the amount of people who live there. Pittsburgh’s air, with its soot and heavy metals, can produce a fair amount of smog.

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