The 25 Most Polluted Places On Earth

Posted by on May 2, 2012

There are many ways you can classify pollution. It can be chemical, radioactive, or simply the presence of improperly disposed waste products. While some places, like Mexico City, have a very obvious problem with their heavy smog, do not be misled. The much more serene looking Lake Karachay in Russia would have you dead within an hour of sitting on its banks due to heavy radioactive contamination. So, whether the pollution is visible or not, take note because these are the 25 most polluted places on Earth.

La Oroya, Peru

La Oroya, PeruThe most recent addition to our list, the small Andean town of La Oroya has been home to a metal smelter run by Missouri based Doe Run Corporation since 1922. As a result nearly all the local children suffer from lead poisoning and respiratory complications. The Peruvian government has even been taken to court for crimes against humanity by various organizations.

Norilsk, Russia

Norilsk, RussiaThis Siberian city houses an even larger smelting complex than La Oroya (it’s actually the largest in the world). Not surprisingly, the pollution here is so bad that the average life expectancy is up to 10 years less than the rest of Russia.

Citarum River, Indonesia

Citarum River, IndonesiaOne of the world’s most polluted rivers, over 5 million people reside in its basin and rely on it as their primary water supply.

Kabwe, Zambia

Kabwe, ZambiaAfter years of mining and processing both cadmium and lead are very common in the hills surrounding this Zambian city. In fact, the children here have been found to have 10 times the permissible EPA level of lead in their bloodstream. Moreover, the ground is barren and nothing will grow as a result of the contamination.

Riachuelo Basin, Argentina

Riachuelo Basin, ArgentinaAlmost synonymous with pollution, the banks of the Riachuelo Basin in Argentina are lined by nearly 4,000 factories, 42 garbage dumps, and 13 slums. Definitely not a good combination when it comes to health and life expectancy.

Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan

Mailuu-Suu, KyrgyzstanAs one of the largest dumps of radioactive waste in all of Asia, Mailuu-Suu is not only heavily contaminated but there are a series of unstable uranium tailing pits in the hills surrounding the city. Were these pits were to empty the result would be disastrous.

Sukinda, India

Sukinda, IndiaWith upwards of a dozen mines operating in the regions without any significant level of regulation, the this Indian city has been listed as one of the most polluted in the world by the Blacksmith Institute.

Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku, AzerbaijanLong an oil hub, Azerbaijan’s capital suffers from extensive pollution as a result of shipping and drilling.

Rondonia, Brazil

Rondonia, Brazilphoto – National Geographic

Although not polluted in the same sense as some of the other places on this list, Rondonia has been subjected to extensive deforestation in recent years and is now one of the most destroyed regions of the Amazon Rainforest.


Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, MexicoThe fact that it is located in a volcanic crater surrounded by mountains only compounds Mexico City’s already troublesome pollution problem by trapping a thick layer of smog that hover over the city.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka, BangladeshImage Source

Whenever you cram 150 million people into an area the size of Bangladesh you are bound to have some waste management issues.c


Port-au-Prince, Haiti

HaitiNot only has the country as a whole been significantly destroyed by natural disasters and deforestation, but on top of all that it has on its hands a severe waste management crisis.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dar es Salaam, TanzaniaWith a rapidly growing population, Dar es Salaam’s already strained water supply is only going to worsen. Moreover, as solid wastes continues to empty into the Msimbazi River, the prevalence of infectious disease will continue to increase.

Brazzaville, Congo

Brazzaville, CongoWith an extremely contaminated water supply, the capital of the Congo has an extensive list of health and sanitation issues knocking at its door and its life expectancy is already one of the lowest in Africa.

Earth’s Orbit

space debrisIf you have read our list on 25 crazy facts about the universe then you know that the Earth is surrounded by nearly 4 million pounds of space debris. The image you see above was actually generated by NASA to show which ones are presently being tracked.
David Pegg


After helping found the United Nations, the United States, and United Airlines, David consigned himself to a transient life of writing lists and sleeping on park benches.

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  • El Diablo

    Why India is not in the No. 1 position? This survey is wrong. India has the most polluted number of cities in the world!

  • Writs

    Very nice list, except that #10 ‘s photo is from Manila, Philippines.

    You should correct it.

  • Arska

    Hyi saatana meitä ihmisiä.

  • stupid person 101

    los angeles should be on the list

  • Sam Noroozi

    How come you can name Ahwaz as number one in this list while there are your rank 3, 4,5,6 and so on exists. The only problem with that city is dust storm which doesn’t do any harm like chemical or nuclear pollutions. So this list is absolutely meaningless. By the way, the picture is not from ahwaz because u can tell from the American SUV thatdoesn’t exist in Iran or the license plate or even the clothing!

    • Scientist

      You’re right, that’s actually in Oregon.

  • Max Wahlstraacht

    The world would be better off without our species and I believe that as terrible as it sounds, the sooner we become extinct the better. If we left this earth tomorrow, only the rats, cockroaches and creatures that rely on our filth (vermin) would notice.

  • Kyle Miller

    Jesus christ India, get a grip and clean yourself up. Embarrassing.

    • Divakar Yadav

      Jesus Save Russia :p

  • Nutmeg

    So youre telling me that duststorms and smog are more polluted than an atmosphere where you couldnt live for longer than an hour?

    • guywithauke

      If you’re taking about the Russian lake, I think they meant exposure to the waters of the lake rather than to the atmosphere there…

  • suresh chopane,India

    Horrible .are we really intelligent species ?stop pollution in any form or we will. be destroyed

  • Fredrik Svenningsson

    Is it really a photo of lake Karachay. I guess not.

  • S Sabcott

    Human Beings are the biggest parasite on the earth. The only way to remotely solve this problem is to control human population growth. What needs to happen is politicians enforcing strict limitations on amounts of offspring people can have. If this is not done and human population is not controlled and reduced take the images seen above and multiply it by the amount of growth incurred. In other words more people is going to = more devastation and what good would it be to be bringing children into this world to suffer anyway……….So pathetic to see those images!

  • Marky

    Photo in #10 is actually in Manila Bay, Philippines (not India)

  • Ken Alberts

    We should rename our species, “Trash Monkeys.’ What a disgusting legacy we’re leaving. Our species is developed technologically, but per-stoneage in terms of wisdom and husbandry.

  • hmr

    the picture posted for the Iranian city in the number one spot for the worlds most polluted city is not actually in Iran. the picture seems to me like it’s in saudi arabia. the white Thoube the men in the photo are wearing is the saudi national dress for men, the flags are green (saudi flag) even through the storm you an tell it is not an iranian flag.

  • dd

    dust storms and nuclear Chernobyl and you claim Iran is the most polluted. what do you take us for? fools?? zombies?

  • anil sanadhya

    its not the places which are polluted but we the people who are polluted by our heart,
    And a polluted thing only can make is pollution.

  • G Smith

    The Country with the record for the most polluted waterways in the world with a land mass populated with under 5 million people is New Zealand.. this has been caused by a company called fonterra who continues to expand at a alarming rate with more and more farm dairy conversions example..the provence of Southland has 90.000 people with good sewage desposal.. as well as enough cows dumping on the ground per day sewage equating to 7.5 million people without desposal means… this is now right accross New Zealand and it stinks when you go for a Sunday drive in the countryside. so much clean green image of NZ

  • Thomas Moghaddam

    Iranian city number 1 in terms of most polluted worldwide

  • Bob Spiegel

    Its absolutely mind numbing that mankind has managed to accomplished such a feat and become such a plague on the earth. Whats more insane is that there is no other posts or even comments of any kind on this article. Wow are we in really in trouble.

    Lord help us all for what we are doing to the precious gift our creator has given us.