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World's 10 Worst Toxic Pollution Problems [Slide Show]

Mercury, lead, chromium and other toxic compounds, used in many industrial processes, rob years of healthy life from millions each year. Simple fixes could go far in solving the issue

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ARSENIC AND WELL WATER:

The world's worst toxic problems are not confined solely to industrial pursuits. Arsenic leaching into groundwater afflicts some 750,000 people, largely in south Asia. Here a child in Nepal drinks from a well containing water contaminated with arsenic, which can lead to abnormal heart beat, blood vessel damage and cancer, among other ill effects.....[ More ]

LEAD–ACID BATTERIES:

These rechargeable batteries that help start most cars and trucks are composed of lead plates and sulfuric acid in a plastic case. Used batteries can be easily and cheaply recycled—but are also classified as "toxic waste" by the Basel Convention on hazardous waste and its disposal.....[ More ]

CARCINOGENIC CHROMIUM:

Turning hides into leather in much of the world requires chromium, which in its hexavalent chemical form is a potent carcinogen. Clusters of such tanneries in countries such as Bangladesh produce vast quantities of toxic waste—200 separate tanneries in Hazaribagh combine to produce daily 7.7 million liters of wastewater and 88 million tons of solid waste, like the chromium sludge pictured here.....[ More ]

SMELTER:

Some 3.8 million metric tons of lead are produced annually by separating it from mined ore using high heat. Too often such smelting, like that pictured here in Vietnam, happens in backyards without any pollution controls.....[ More ]

PESTICIDE PROBLEM:

Modern agriculture relies on pesticides, requiring the application of some two million metric tons annually on fields. Health effects in humans range from skin irritation, like that pictured here, to cancer.....[ More ]

INDUSTRIAL WASTEWATER:

Concentrating wastewater in industrial parks allows for shared environmental controls—except, too often, such technology is not employed, like the wastewater from an industrial park flowing in an open drain (pictured).....[ More ]

ELEMENTAL MERCURY:

The "quicksilver" pictured here in a miner's hand is used to bond to gold in a slurry. The gold–mercury amalgam is then heated, usually in the open air, exposing miners, their children and the world to vaporized mercury—a potent neurotoxic element that causes developmental disorders and affects the central nervous system.....[ More ]

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