Epidemiology

Unappreciated toll of toxic sites

    Toxic-waste sites pose as big a health threat as malaria in some developing nations.

    Kevin Chatham-Stephens at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and his colleagues produced a systematic assessment of the disease burden of toxic-waste sites in India (pictured), Indonesia and the Philippines.

    The team used site visits, sampling, interviews and a global database of dumps to estimate that, in 2010, 8.6 million people were at risk of exposure to industrial pollutants — mainly lead and hexavalent chromium — at 373 sites in these nations. The authors calculated that the toxic exposures from just the surveyed sites resulted in the loss of more than 800,000 years of healthy life owing to ill-health and death in these countries, a toll about half that of air pollution and slightly more than that of malaria.

    Credit: BLACKSMITH INST.

    Environ. Health Perspect. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1206127 (2013)

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    Unappreciated toll of toxic sites. Nature 497, 290 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/497290a

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