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Group names world's most polluted places

Cities in China, India make the list

Haze clouded the skyline of Tianjin, China. The Blacksmith Institute, an environmental group based in New York, has added Tianjin and two cities in India and one in Azerbaijan to its list of the 10 most polluted places in the world. Haze clouded the skyline of Tianjin, China. The Blacksmith Institute, an environmental group based in New York, has added Tianjin and two cities in India and one in Azerbaijan to its list of the 10 most polluted places in the world. (VINCENT DU/REUTERS)

TOKYO - Four cities in China, India, and Azerbaijan were added to a list of the world's 10 most polluted places, the Blacksmith Institute said, citing a legacy of mining, Cold War-era pollution, and unregulated industrial production.

Tianying in China, Sumgayit in Azerbaijan, and India's Vapi and Sukinda joined cities including Chernobyl in Ukraine and Norilsk in Russia on this year's list, the New York-based environmental group said on its website. The top 10 sites affect about 12 million people in seven countries.

Environmental hazards are responsible for about a quarter of the total burden of disease worldwide, and almost 35 percent in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization. As many as 13 million deaths could be prevented every year by making our environments healthier.

"Children are sick and dying in these polluted places, and it's not rocket science to fix them," said Richard Fuller, Blacksmith Institute's founder and director, in a statement. "There has been more focus on pollution in the media, but there has been little action in terms of new funding or programs."

The institute's top 10 list is based on scoring criteria devised by an international panel that includes researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and Mount Sinai Hospital. Specialists from Green Cross Switzerland also participated in this year's assessment of more than 400 polluted sites, the group said.

Other places on the list, which were ranked in alphabetical order rather than the degree of pollution, were Linfen in China, La Oroya in Peru, Dzerzhinsk in Russia, and Kabwe in Zambia.

The "Dirty 30," Blacksmith's extended list of polluted locations, includes mostly sites in Asia, with China, India, and Russia having the greatest number, it said.

Toxic pollution resulted from "sources as diverse as massive industrial estates, large-scale mining and smelting operations, and even Cold War-era chemical weapons production," Blacksmith said in its statement.

The methodology of the study this year was refined to place more weight on the scale and toxicity of the pollution and on the numbers of people at risk, it said.

China is paying for its fast-paced economic growth with an environmental disaster beyond the control of the central government, Elizabeth Economy, a scholar at the US Council on Foreign Relations, said last week.

About one-third of China's lakes, rivers, and coastal waters are polluted because of farming and industry waste and pose a threat to human health, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report in July.

The country's birth defect rate is triple that of developed nations, the China Daily said yesterday, citing Li Zhu, director of the National Center for Maternity and Infant Health.

At least a million Chinese babies born each year have defects, it said.

Tianying, 81 miles southeast of Beijing, is responsible for about half the production of China's lead. Poisoning from the heavy metal "severely stagnates children's intellectual development," Blacksmith said. The city is also northern China's largest port.

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