July 6, 2009

The Top Ten worst pollution problem in World

Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland released (2006 and 2007) lists of the "World’s Worst Polluted Places." Each problem listed below and then explained later.

  1. Ground Water contamination
  2. Industrial Mining Activities
  3. Metal Smelter and processing
  4. Radioactive waste
  5. Untreated Sewage
  6. Urban Air Quality
  7. Lead acid Battery Recycling
  8. Contaminated Surface Water
  9. Indoor air pollution
  10. Gold mining

Groundwater contamination occurs when man-made products such as gasoline, oil, road salts and chemicals get into the groundwater and cause it to become unsafe and unfit for human use. Some of the major sources of these products, called contaminants, are storage tanks, septic systems, hazardous waste sites, landfills, and the widespread use of road salts, fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals.Source

Mining is generally very destructive to the environment. It is one of the main causes of deforestation. In order to mine, trees and vegetation are cleared and burned. With the ground completely bare, large scale mining operations use huge bulldozers and excavators to extract the metals and minerals from the soil. In order to amalgamate (cluster) the extractions, they use chemicals such as cyanide, mercury, or methylmercury. These chemicals go through tailings (pipes) and are often discharged into rivers, streams, bays, and oceans. This pollution contaminates all living organisms within the body of water and ultimately the people who depend on the fish for their main source of protein and their economic livelihood.

Small scale mining is equally devastating to the environment, if not more. Groups of 5-6 men migrate from one mining site to another in search of precious metals, usually gold. There are two types of small scale mining: land dredging and river dredging:

  • Land dredging involves miners using a generator to dig a large hole in the ground. They use a high pressure hose to expose the gold-bearing layer of sand and clay. The gold bearing slurry is pumped into a sluice box, which collects gold particles, while mine tailings flow into either an abandoned mining pit or adjacent forest. When the mining pits fill with water from the tailings, they become stagnant water pools. These pools create a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other water-born insects. Malaria and other water-born diseases increase significantly whenever open pools of water are nearby.
  • River dredging involves moving along a river on a platform or boat. The miners use a hydrolic suction hose and suction the gravel and mud as they move along the river. The gravel, mud, and rocks go through the tailings (pipes) and any gold fragments are collected on felt mats. The remaining gravel, mud, and rocks go back into the river, but in a different location than where it was originally suctioned. This creates problems for the river. The displaced gravel and mud disrupt the natural flow of the river. Fish and other living organisms often die and fishermen can no longer navigate in the obstructed rivers. source

Metal processing plants and smelters are facilities that extract various metals from ore to create more refined metal products. Metals include copper, nickel, lead, zinc, silver, cobalt, gold, cadmium, etc. Smelting specifically involves heating the ore with a reducing agent such as coke, charcoal or other purifying agents. Primary smelting processes mine ore and concentrates, whereas secondary smelting processes recover scrap.

Exposure to airborne pollutants from metal processing and smelting can lead to various acute and chronic diseases. Initial sudden exposure can lead to an irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. More serious and chronic effects are heart and lung problems, and even premature death. Heavy metals also pose chronic health risks including bioaccumulation of toxic elements in organisms, which can result into birth defects, kidney and liver problems, gastrointestinal tract issues, joint pain, as well as nervous, respiratory and reproductive system damage. In La Oroya, Peru, a lead smelter operating since 1922 is blamed for the high levels of lead, a heavy metal, in the local children. A study from 2002 found that eighty percent of children tested in the area have blood lead levels two and three times greater than accepted levels.5 The study also found that 73% of La Oroya’s children between the ages of 6 months and six years had lead levels between 20 and 44 μg/dL, and 23% were found with levels higher than 45 μg/dL, which is almost quadruple the WHO limit of 10 μg/dL.source

Radioactive waste is a waste product containing radioactive material. It is usually the product of a nuclear process such as nuclear fission. However, industries not directly connected to the nuclear industry may produce quantities of radioactive waste. The majority of radioactive waste is "low-level waste", meaning it contains low levels of radioactivity per mass or volume. This type of waste often consists of used protective clothing, which is only lightly contaminated but still dangerous in case of radioactive contamination of a human body through ingestion, inhalation, absorption, or injection. Other sources include medical and industrial wastes, as well as naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) that can be concentrated as a result of the processing or consumption of coal, oil and gas, and some minerals.source

Sewage refers to liquid wastes containing a mixture of human feces and wastewater from non-industrial human activities such as bathing, washing, and cleaning. In many poor areas of the world, sewage is dumped into local waterways, in the absence of practical alternatives.According to a UNEP report published on 3 October 2002, almost 40 per cent of world population lives in coastal areas less than 60 kilometres from the shore, most of which are being threatened by untreated sewage discharges. The report was compiled in response to a target agreed upon at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, to halve by the year 2015 the number of people without access to basic sanitation services.source

Airborne pollutants can be classified broadly into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary pollutants are those that are emitted into the atmosphere by sources such as fossil fuel combustion from power plants, vehicle engines and industrial production, by combustion of biomass for agricultural or land-clearing purposes, and by natural processes such as windblown dust, volcanic activity and biologic respiration. Secondary pollutants are formed within the atmosphere when primary pollutants react with sunlight, oxygen, water and other chemicals present in the air.

According to the World Health Organization’s air
quality standards, the concentration of suspended particulates should be less
than 90 micrograms per cubic meter. In
many cities, however, this number is several
times higher.

High concentrations of suspended particulates adversely affect human health, provoking a wide range of respiratory diseases and exacerbating heart disease and other conditions. Worldwide, in
1995 the ill health caused by such pollution resulted in at least 500,000 premature deaths and 4–5 million new cases of chronic bronchitis. Most of the people at risk are urban dwellers in developing countries, especially China and India. In many Chinese cities air quality is so poor that nationwide, economic losses caused by excess illness and mortality of urban residents are estimated at 5 percent of GDP. According to estimates for 18 cities in Central and Eastern Europe,18,000 premature deaths a year could be prevented and $1.2 billion a year in working time lost to illness could be regained by achieving European Union pollution standards for dust and soot.

Major health effects associated with outdoor air pollution are typically associated with chronic pulmonary and cardio-vascular stress from the fine particles and include increased mortality, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, asthma exacerbation, acute and chronic bronchitis, restrictions in activity and lost days of work. The health effects of outdoor air pollution fall disproportionately on infants, children and the elderly.source

Lead has a unique properties and characteristic to be used in various manufacturing or manufacturing processes. The most common use of lead today is to manufacture automotive, industrial and domestic batteries. It’s been a very important factor in today’s lead-acid battery manufacturing. These batteries give power in various situation and condition. Three basic uses of lead-acid battery are to give start to our vehicles, power to electrically operated vehicles and when power fails it powers our offices, hospitals, homes and many of the places in emergency.

About 6 million tons of lead is used annually, on a worldwide basis, of which roughly three-quarters goes into the production of lead-acid batteries, which are used in automobiles, industry and a wide range of other applications. Much of this existing demand for lead is met through the recycling of secondary material and in particular from lead recovered from Used Lead-Acid Batteries (ULAB). This high level of recycling is very effective in reducing the volumes of lead dumped in the environment and in minimizing the need for mining more ores. However, in many places, much of the recycling is done on an informal basis, in unhygienic and dangerous conditions and resulting in serious lead poisoning of the recyclers themselves and the neighboring communities.

Acute lead poisoning can occur when people are directly exposed to large amounts of lead through inhaling dust, fumes or vapors dispersed in the air. However, chronic poisoning from absorbing low amounts of lead over long periods of time is a much more common and pervasive problem. Lead can enter the body through the lungs or the mouth, and over long periods can accumulate in the bones. Health risks include impaired physical growth, kidney damage, retardation, and in extreme cases even death. Lead poisoning can lead to tiredness, headache, aching bones and muscles, forgetfulness, loss of appetite and sleep disturbance.

Freshwater makes up less than three percent of earth’s water, but is the source of virtually all drinking water.Pollutants of the water systems are typically pathogens arising from human waste (bacteria and viruses), heavy metals and organic chemicals from industrial waste. Ingestion of pathogens through drinking contaminated water or with food prepared using contaminated water is the most common pathway. Eating fish from contaminated waters can be risky, since they can absorb and concentrate both pathogens and toxics such as heavy metals and persistent organics. In addition, human health may be affected by crops that take up pollutants from contaminated water used for irrigation or from land flooded by polluted rivers.

Fertilizer, animal manure, and waste-treatment plant effluent all contain nutrients that stimulate excessive plant and algal growth in freshwater bodies. When the plants die and decompose, dissolved oxygen is depleted, causing die-offs of fish and other species living in the water. Persistent organochlorine insecticides, such as DDT, deposited in lake sediments can bioaccumulate, harming the fish and birds that eat them. Pyrethroid insecticides, though derived from chrysanthemums, are extremely toxic to aquatic organisms. Estrogen-mimicking substances such as some pesticides and industrially produced chemicals have been shown to interfere with the reproductive system of fish.

Human and animal fecal waste contain disease-carrying organisms such as the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) and pathogens that causes cholera, typhoid, and cryptosporidiosis. Cholera is rarely seen in the United States, but E. coli outbreaks are not rare, and in 1993, more than fifty people died, and an estimated 400,000 became ill from a massive outbreak of cryptosporidiosis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The outbreak was attributed to a failure in drinking water treatment, allowing the cyst form of the parasite, introduced by animal waste, to pass into tap water and be ingested. Ten outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis were reported in the United States between 1990 and 2000.

Mercury bioaccumulates in fish and can damage the nervous systems and brains of humans. It can interfere with normal behavior in birds, such as loons, causing them to spend less time looking for food or incubating eggs. About one-quarter of breeding adult loons have higher-than-normal (10 parts per million) levels of mercury. source

Indoor Air Pollution (IAP) describes the adverse ambient air conditions inside households, schools, places of work and other indoor spaces. This can be caused by a range of sources, including stoves, smoking and machinery. Most IAP occurs in the developing world.

More than three billion people worldwide continue to depend on solid fuels, including biomass fuels (wood, dung, agricultural residues) and coal, for their energy needs.

Cooking and heating with solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves results in high levels of indoor air pollution. Indoor smoke contains a range of health-damaging pollutants, such as small particles and carbon monoxide, and particulate pollution levels may be 20 times higher than accepted guideline values.

Indoor Air Pollution mostly affects health through inhalation, but can also affect the eyes through contact with smoke. IAP happens largely in the household where cooking, sleeping, eating and other activities take place. Women and children are therefore most at risk. The burning of biomass fuels adds to particulate. Particles with diameters of less than 10 microns (PM10) and particularly those less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) are small enough to penetrate deeply into the lungs.

source:who.int , www.worstpolluted.org

Artisanal gold mining is one of the most significant sources of mercury release into the environment in the developing world, with at least a quarter of the world’s total gold supply coming from such sources.2 Artisanal gold miners combine mercury with gold-carrying silt to form a hardened amalgam that has picked up most of the gold metal from the silt. The amalgam is later heated with blowtorches or over an open flame to evaporate the mercury, leaving small gold pieces. The gaseous mercury is inhaled by the miners and often by their immediate family, including their children. Mercury that is not inhaled during the burning process, settles into the surrounding environment or circulates globally for future deposition far from the site, where it is absorbed and processed by a variety of living organisms. This transforms elemental mercury into methylmercury. Methylmercury is one of the most dangerous neurotoxins that contaminate the food chain through bioaccumulation.

Children that are exposed to mercury are particularly at risk for developmental problems. Exposure to mercury can cause kidney problems, arthritis, memory loss, miscarriages, psychotic reactions, respiratory failure, neurological damage and even death.source

Visit www.thepollutions.com for more

Subscribe to RSS Feed or Get update via Email


  1. Very informative. I think the biggest source of water pollution is Industries. Who are releasing large amount of hazardous waste into our water resources. In order to do proper treatment of this waste water consultant like waterstsolutions must be contacted

  2. Soil is a sort of ecosystem unto itself, and it is relatively sensitive to foreign matter being applied to it. That’s good for us in the case of wanting to add soil amendments, fertilizer and compost to make the soil healthier, but not so good when it comes to soil pollution.

  3. Yes there is a lot of contamination and thus pollution.The water air and in fact the general nature is in ill health and reacting and crying in many ways.If only we tried to help the situation all together.