Make sure you include a respirator or some type of breathing mechanism on your packing list if heading to any of the destinations found on the Blacksmith Institute’s World’s Worst Polluted Places list. Keep in mind there will be no smelling of roses as you stroll the contaminated paths in Haina, Dominican Republic; Kabwe, Zambia; La Oroya, Peru; or Linfen, China. Instead, imagine whiffing the scents of sulfur dioxide, lead, Strontium-90, cobalt and Caesium-137.
On a very serious note the list is very disheartening and if you take an opportunity to read site descriptions in full it gets even worse. Numbers of the potentially affected population are included as well as types of pollutants (some longer than most), site description and cleanup activity. If you’re unable to connect with the dangers of what unusually high levels of any of the toxins noted can do — the pictures make it quite real. I mean, we’re talking some 3,500,000 people in Ranipet, India who could potentially be affected by disgusting, life-threatening toxins found in Tannery waste. This certainly won’t be the kind of information you find in tourism brochures or places your might ever consider for a holiday unless you’re into nuclear power plants, like Ukraine’s ever-so-popular Chernobyl. Chernobyl travel has most certainly been done before, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Then again, I’m just another sucker for fresh water and clean air.