The World's Worst Pollution Problems,
In 2006 and 2007, Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland
released lists of the "World's Worst Polluted Places." For 2008, they
have updated their methodology to focus on the World's Worst Pollution
Problems. According to the Blacksmith Institute, "this report gives an
overview of the range of pollution threats humans face throughout the
world." Each problem listed below exists in more than one location
around the world, so they are truly global issues. The list in
- Artisanal Gold Mining
Artisanal mining uses rudimentary
methods to extract and process minerals and metals on a small scale.
Artisanal miners frequently use toxic materials, including mercury, in
their attempts to recover metals and gems. These toxic materials can be
released into the environment, posing large health risks to the miners,
their families and surrounding communities.
- Contaminated Surface Water
Every human needs about 20
liters of freshwater a day for basic survival and an additional 50 to
150 liters for basic household use. With growing populations and an
overall increase in living standards, not only is the demand for
freshwater pushing limits, but increasing pollution from urban,
industrial and agricultural sources is making available resources either
unusable or dangerous to health.
- Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor Air Pollution (IAP)
describes the adverse ambient air conditions inside households, schools,
places of work, and other indoor spaces. IAP can be caused by a range of
sources, including stoves, smoking and machinery. Most IAP occurs in the
- Industrial Mining Activities
Waste rock from industrial
mining often generates acid drainage when air and water come into
contact with metal sulfide minerals, and the resulting sulfuric acid
solutions contaminate surface water bodies and groundwater.
- Groundwater Contamination
Groundwater is a very
important source of freshwater, making up 97 percent of the world's
accessible freshwater reserves. In addition, about two billion urban and
rural people depend on groundwater for everyday needs. Obviously, the
contamination of this water source, mostly through human activities, has
- Metals Smelting and Processing
Some metals smelting and
processing facilities are known to emit high quantities of air
pollutants such as hydrogen fluoride, sulfur dioxide, oxides of
nitrogen, offensive and noxious smoke fumes, vapors, gases, and other
toxins. A variety of heavy metals: lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium,
nickel, copper, and zinc are also released by the facilities.
- Radioactive Waste and Uranium Mining
There are two kinds
of radioactive waste: high level and low level. The former comes from
"spent" fuel from a nuclear reactor. The latter includes material that
has only a small decay activity or has become contaminated with, or
activated by, nuclear materials. Both kinds of waste are extremely
dangerous and hard to dispose of.
- Untreated Sewage
Untreated sewage poses a major risk to
human health since it contains waterborne pathogens that can cause
serious illness. Untreated sewage also destroys aquatic ecosystems, and
therby threatens human livelihoods, when the associated biological
oxygen demand and nutrient loading deplete oxygen in the water to levels
too low to sustain animal and plant life.
- Urban Air Pollution
The health impacts caused by outdoor
air pollution have been widely recognized by both national governments
and multilateral development organizations as a threat to urban
populations, especially in developing countries. The World Health
Organization estimates that 865,000 deaths per year can be directly
attributed to outdoor air pollution.
- Used Lead Acid Battery Recycling
The most common
example of a lead acid battery is a car battery. When these batteries
can no longer hold a charge, they have to be disposed of, but scavenging
them and opening them up to extract the lead has become a cottage
industry in the developing world. The lead is valuable, but it also puts
everyone near it at severe risk for lead poisoning.