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Pollution Killing Kids in China, India

Global environment watchdog blames unregulated factories, mining as major health threat to children


NEW YORK - Poisonous industrial sites in India, China and the former Soviet Union top a new ranking of the world's most polluted places, where millions of people are threatened by toxic chemicals, an environment watchdog says.

The lead production base of Tianying, eastern China, and the industrial town of Vapi, India, were among new additions to the Top 10 list of "worst polluted places" by the Blacksmith Institute in New York and the environmental cleanup group Green Cross Switzerland.

"Mining, Cold War-era legacy pollution and unregulated industrial production are the major culprits behind the pollution identified by the Blacksmith Institute report," the group said in a statement.0917 02 1 2

Vapi "exemplifies a region overwhelmed by industrial estates - more than 50 poison the local soils and groundwater with pesticides, PCBs (carcinogenic chemicals), chromium, mercury, lead and cadmium."

The study ranked places based on the scale of the pollution and the number of people at risk.

"Children are sick and dying in these polluted places, and it's not rocket science to fix them," the institute's director Richard Fuller said in the statement.

Also new since last year in the polluted Top 10 is Sumgayit, Azerbaijan - "a former Soviet industrial base polluting the area with industrial chemicals and heavy metals," the report said.

"Cancer rates in Sumgayit are 22 to 51 per cent higher than the national average; genetic mutations and birth defects are commonplace."

Chernobyl, site of a devastating nuclear reactor explosion in Ukraine in 1986, is listed ninth.

Some 12 million people were affected in these top 10 places, according to the report. The institute highlights the health threats to children from industrial pollution, such as the stunting effect of lead poisoning on intellectual development.

Places on the Top 10 list are not ranked relative to one another for more or less severe pollution.

The institute also compiled a "dirty 30" list of other places it described as "very toxic and dangerous to human health," including sites in Kyrgyzstan and the Dominican Republic.

The only North American city on the institute's Dirty 30 list was Mexico City.

© Toronto Star 1996-2007

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