September 18, 2007
Two girls walk to school amid smoky skies in La Oroya, Peru
, in this September 2003 photo. (See a map of Peru
The congested mining town of 35,000 nestled high in the Andes was recently added to the Blacksmith Institute's list of the ten most polluted places in the world.
A metal smelter run by the Missouri-based Doe Run Corporation has operated in the remote settlement since 1922.
Exposure to the smelter's pollution has led to dangerously high blood lead levels in nearly all of La Oroya's children, according to the New York-based institute.
Lung ailments are widespread, and high numbers of premature death have been linked to the smelter's emissions, the nonprofit reports on its Web site.
Likewise, acid rain from sulfur dioxide pollution has destroyed much of the vegetation in the area.
Doe Run says it has invested approximately 1 million U.S. dollars a year in a joint program with the Peruvian Ministry of Health to lower blood lead levels in the region.
The Blacksmith Institute, which collaborates with local agencies to fight pollution worldwide, compiled its annual list of the most polluted places through a nomination process.
The entries were then reviewed by a technical advisory board of medical and environmental experts.
William Suk, acting deputy director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, was not involved in the report.
"What the [Blacksmith Institute] has done is a good thing," Suk told National Geographic News.
"They are trying to bring to the attention of the world that these sites exist."
Keep clicking to see the other locations named on this year's list: Sumgayit, Azerbaijan; Linfen, China; Sukinda, India; Vapin, India; La Oroya, Peru; Dzerzhinsk, Russia; Noril'sk, Russia; Chernobyl, Ukraine; Kabwe, Russia; (Tianying, China, is not pictured.)
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Photograph by AP