The World's Worst Pollution Problems,
According to the Blacksmith Institute, "this report gives an
overview of the range of pollution threats humans face throughout the
world." Each problem listed below exists in more than one location
around the world, so they are truly global issues.
- Lead-Acid Battery Recycling: Lead Pollution
The most common example of a lead acid battery is a car battery. When these batteries
can no longer hold a charge, they have to be disposed of, but scavenging
them and opening them up to extract the lead has become a cottage
industry in the developing world. The lead is valuable, but it also puts
everyone near it at severe risk for lead poisoning.
- Lead Smelting: Lead Pollution
Lead processing and smelting plants work with
both primary and secondary lead. Primary lead is
mined, separated from ore, and refined into various
products, whereas secondary lead is recovered from
used objects – such as used lead-acid batteries – for
reuse in other products. Smelting is a key process in
lead product production, and involves heating lead
ore or recovered lead with chemical reducing agents.
Both secondary and primary smelting processes can
be responsible for releasing large amounts of lead
contamination into the surrounding environment.
- Mining and Ore Processing: Mercury Pollution
Elemental mercury occurs naturally in the earth and
is a liquid metal. Most mercury forms in a sulfide ore
called cinnabar. Separating mercury from cinnabar can release mercury vapor,
which is highly toxic, into the atmosphere.
Waste rock and tailings from mercury mining,
and other extraction processes where mercury is
uncovered, can still contain small or large amounts of
the toxic substance. Mercury that is not processed or
claimed during mining and ore processing can make
its way into the environment if the mining waste is not
- Tannery Operations: Chromium Pollution
The processing of leather creates not only potentially toxic wastewater,
but also large amounts of
solid waste that contain chromium such as: hide
scraps, skins, and excess fats. Toxins from this waste
can leach into nearby soil and water, placing nearby
residents at risk of contamination.
- Industrial/Municipal Dump Sites: Lead and Chromium
Waste at industrial or municipal dumpsites can include waste from batteries, scrap metal, agricultural, and hospitals, households and chemical waste from industrial processes. Polluted dumpsites generally consist of two different types of waste disposal, open dumpsites and
municipal landfills. Open dumpsites are unregulated informal sites where individuals or industries dump a
variety of solid or liquid waste with no formal treatment or pollution controls.I
- Industrial Estates: Lead Pollution
Industrial Estates are planned, zoned areas that
are set aside for a variety of industries, offices, and production.Unfortunately, in many low- and middle-income
countries, industrial estates have little to no waste
treatment and disposal infrastructure, and they
are often located near populated areas. In the
case of an industrial estate that has no pollution
control mechanisms, lead, which is often a main
contaminant caused by industrial estates, can be
released into surrounding air, soil, water, and food.
- Artisanal Gold Mining: Mercury Pollution
Artisanal mining uses rudimentary
methods to extract and process minerals and metals on a small scale.
Artisanal miners frequently use toxic materials, including mercury, in
their attempts to recover metals and gems. These toxic materials can be
released into the environment, posing large health risks to the miners,
their families and surrounding communities.
- Product Manufacturing: Lead and Chromium
Polluted manufacturing sites include textiles,
electronics, food, fuel, plastics and metals. However, there are many more types of manufacturing that
fall under this umbrella term, including raw materials, agricultural products, building products, pulp and
paper mills and much more. According to the National Association of Manufacturers the top four largest
manufacturing industries were food, chemicals, computers and electronics and metal products.
- Chemical Manufacturing: Chromium and Lead
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes the following as chemical manufacturing: basic chemicals
including pigments, dyes, gases and petrochemicals; synthetic materials like plastics; paint products,
cleaning products; and other chemicals including film, ink and explosives. Pharmaceutical manufacturing is also considered under the umbrella of chemical manufacturing. During the production
of these chemicals and products, dangerous by-products and waste are often generated.
- Dye Industry: Chromium, Lead, Cadmium
Dyes are used primarily in the production of consumer products, including paints, textiles, printing inks,
paper, and plastics. These constantly evolving demands result in a highly
fluctuating and diverse waste stream. The textile industry is one of the largest sectors globally and produces
an astonishing 60 billion kilograms of fabric annually, using up to 9 trillion gallons of water.
water use is a key component of pollution. Water is used as cooling water, to clean equipment, and for
rinsing and processing dyes and products.
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