Places to Avoid

pollutionI was reading that Beijing has an Air Quality Index of 886, which is terrible seeing as the scale officially ends at 500. An AQI of 50 is considered safe and an AQI of 100 is tolerable. Anything higher than this is considered to be dangerous to one’s health, so if Beijing has an AQI of 886, it is just plain dangerous to be outside.

Beijing has the dubious honour of sharing the Number One spot with Delhi, India on the World Health Organisations list of world cities with the worst air pollution. Air pollution is bad enough, but some places are far more toxic in other ways, so here are some places to avoid visiting unless you really must:

Ahvaz, Iran is one of the world’s most polluted cities, but much of this is caused naturally. It an extremely hot city with summer temperatures often exceeding 45 degrees Centigrade, and often topping 50. It also suffers many severe dust and sand storms which makes breathing very difficult and visibility is extremely poor.

Chernobyl, Ukraine. Most people know about the world’s worst nuclear disaster which occurred here in 1986. Nobody knows for sure how many people have dies from the effects of cancer caused by the radiation that is still present, estimates put it at about 5,000. I know the dangers from personal experience as a friend of mine who was a charity worker visited the area four times over many years and is now deceased due to the cancer he contracted there. My advice is, if you have no pressing need to go there, don’t.

Linfen, China, which is considered to be the most polluted place in China. It used ot be famous for its clear spring water and agricultural land, but it is part of Shanxi Province which is at the heart of China’s enormous and expanding coal industry, providing about two thirds of the nation’s energy. Residents claiming that they literally choke on coal dust in the evenings, and your clean washing turns black due to the amount of coal dust in the air.

Dzerzhinsk, Russia, not a good place to live or to visit as it has been declared to be the world’s most chemically polluted city as it was, during the Soviet era, and still is, a chemicals production manufacturing city. Tragically, life expectancy here is significantly less than the Russian average with a local life expectancy of 42 years for men and 47 for women, with the 2003 death rate exceeding its birth rate by 260%.

Vapi, India has some of the worst water you will find anywhere. The reason is because it sits at the southern end of a 400-km-long belt of industrial estates. The result is that levels of mercury in the city’s groundwater are reportedly 96 times higher than WHO safety levels, and heavy metals are present in the air and the local produce.

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