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Asia dominates list of world's most polluted places

World's worst-polluted areas span seven countries and affect the health of roughly 12 million people, says environmental group.

An environmental group on Wednesday named the world's worst-polluted areas, and Asia dominated the list.

The 10 most polluted places span seven countries and affect the health of roughly 12 million people, according to the U.S.-based environmental group Blacksmith Institute, which worked with the Green Cross Switzerland to formulate its 2007 list. Among the sites in Asia were: Linfen, China; Tianjin, China; Sukinda, India; and Vapi, India.

The industrial city of Tianjin accounts for more than half of China's lead production; and according to Blacksmith, more than half the country's total output of pollution. In Vapi, India, more than 50 industrial complexes poison the local groundwater with pesticides and heavy metals.

In Russia, Dzerzhinsk and Norilsk made the list. Dzerzhinsk is where the former Soviet Union manufactured chemical weapons during the Cold War; and Norilsk is the site of a former Siberian slave camp, known for nickel and metal mining. Sumgayit, Azerbaijan, also in the top 10, is a part of the former Soviet Union known for toxicity from heavy-metal industrial complexes. According to Blacksmith, cancer rates in Sumgayit are 22 percent to 51 percent higher than the national average.

In Africa, Kabwe, Zambia is heavily polluted from a history of lead mining. La Oroya, Peru, also made the list. Its biggest source of pollution comes from heavy metal mining and processing.

Of course, not to be left off the list is Chernobyl in Ukraine. Astronomical levels of radiation remain there from a nuclear meltdown in 1986.

Blacksmith said that its second-annual list was measured by criteria from experts at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Mount Sinai Hospital and others. To determine which places are most polluted, Blacksmith factors in the scale and toxicity of the pollution and the numbers of people at risk. The top 10 places are not ranked.

"We received over 40 new site nominations from people around the world as a result of publishing the 2006 list," David Hanrahan, Blacksmith's Director of Global Operations, said in a statement.