Pollution In The World’s Cities

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21st Century

The world in the 21st century is one of rapid expansion.  The world’s population has ballooned to over 7 billion people.  It is estimated that there over a billion cars now being driven worldwide and 6 billion cell phones in the hands of people from Manhattan to Mali. This expansion has led to a host of unsurprising yet concerning effects and consequences.   Environmental degradation now affects every corner of the globe.  More and more people, mostly in developing nations, are lacking access to clean drinking water.  Respiratory illnesses are becoming more commonplace due to poor air quality in parts of the globe.  These are just a couple of the growing concerns related to contemporary issues of pollution.

City Bound

While these problems are worldwide and do not recognize borders, some of the most dire situations are found in the world’s cities.  The 21st century world is an urban one.  Current projections estimate that the percentage of the earth’s population living in urban areas will be at 70% in 2050.  The effects of urbanization can be both positive and negative.  The concentration of human populations in urban areas can create a situation where rural areas are subject to less strain and more open to wildlife and pristine wilderness.  However, if this increase is not done intelligently and sustainably, the negatives will outweigh the positives.  Increased fossil fuel consumption, further deterioration of forests, pollution of fresh water sources and exponential industrial growth are just a few important environmental concerns. The following are a few of the most polluted cities in the world:

  • Linfen, China

Linfen is located in northeastern China about 470 miles from Beijing.  It has 3 million inhabitants and is situated in the heart of China’s coal belt. China is the world’s largest coal producer and this is an area with one of the largest concentrations of coal mines in the world. This city’s sky is blanketed with a murky haze containing coal pollutants and particulates. Asthma, bronchitis, and black lung are common chronic afflictions for residents of Linfen, as well as a perpetually soot-stained existence.

  • Kabwe, Zambia

Kabwe is sandwiched between the Congo and Botswana in the verdant country of central Africa.  Kabwe is a coveted industrial center because of its large deposits of minerals like lead, copper and zinc.  Large-scale smelting operations pollute the surface and ground water heavily.  These same waterways are also used by mining companies to transport waste away from Kabwe’s factories.  The mineral mining also creates harmful clouds of lead-laden dust that workers and residents breathe in.

  • La Oroya, Peru

When most people think of Peru, they think of the beautiful Andes Mountains and Macchu pichu.  La Oroya is home to some of the largest industrial mines in South America.  Because of these mining operations, the citizens of La Oroya are exposed to zinc, lead, sulfur and copper runoff in their soil and water.  By some estimates, 99% of the children in La Oroya have extreme quantities of lead and other minerals in their systems.

  • Dzerzhinsk, Russia

Dzerzhinsk is thought of by some to be the most polluted city in the world in terms of chemical contamination.  Over the course of 70 years, before, during and after the Cold War, hundreds of thousands of tons of chemical waste were dumped in the city.  Harmful chemicals like dioxin can be found at prominent levels in the water.  These conditions have lowered the average life expectancy for men and women in Dzerzhinsk to below 50 years old.

  • Sukinda, India

Sukinda has the unfortunate honor of having over 90% of the earth’s chromite ore deposits.  This translates into massive open-earth mining operations to extract the mineral, which lead to death and disease for Sukinda residents.

These locations, in addition to the many like them that are not listed here, all share some common traits.  Many are located in the developing world where rapid population growth paired with unfettered industrialization and little impetus to create and enforce meaningful environmental regulations contribute to the problem of pollution.  Wealthy western countries, like the United States, also add to the problem.  Often, these first world countries look to exploit poorer third world countries for their resources while taking advantage of lax regulations which allow them to operate at a fraction of the cost of what similar operations would cost in their own countries.

Moving Forward 

The problem of pollution the world over is systemic and deeply rooted.  There needs to be leadership and support in the area of conservation and environmental stewardship for the countries most afflicted.  There are intelligent and cost effective measures that can be taken to alleviate some of these problems.  Public demand and responsible legislation can make a cleaner future possible.
If you are fearful of air pollution in your city, you might want to look into an air purification system for your home or office like this one from Rabbit Air.  The systems are small and match any home decor preference. Your peace of mind is essential when it comes to keeping your family safe and healthy.

 

 

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