9. Sumgayit, Azerbaijan
Number of people potentially affected: 275,000
Type of pollutant: Organic chemicals, oil and heavy metals
Source of pollution: Petrochemical and industrial complexes
Sumgayıt is the third largest city in Azerbaijan, located near the Caspian Sea, about 31 kilometres (19 miles) away from the capital, Baku. The city has a population of around 298,000, making it the third-largest city in Azerbaijan after the capital Baku and Ganja. Unfortunately, it is heavily polluted.
Sumgayit was a major Soviet industrial center with more than 40 factories producing industrial and agricultural chemicals. Sumgayit’s many factories, while they were operational, released as much as 70,000 to 120,000 tons of harmful emissions, including mercury, into the air every year. Most of the factories have been shut down, but the pollutants remain.
As a result, a high percentage of babies are born premature, stillborn, and with genetic defects such as Down’s syndrome, anencephaly, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, bone disease, and mutations such as club feet, cleft palate, and additional digits.