10 Worst Man-Made Environmental Catastrophes

Contamination Assessment - Soil and Groundwater Pollution

There have certainly been a large number of environmental calamities over the decades. While some were worse than others, there is always the possibility that something will surpass even those terrible events. Here are the 10 deadliest environmental contaminant releases globally that are listed on the Internet most often. 10. Cyanide Spill – Baia Mare, Romania In January of 2000, cyanide and heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury overflowed into the Somes and Tisza rivers. Cyanide was being used in a nearby mine to extract gold when the overflow occurred. A break in a dam caused the overflow and thankfully there weren’t any casualties, due to a quick response time by the proper authorities. 9. Wastewater Spill in SpainCopper, lead, zinc, and cadmium were all spilled into the Guadiamar River when a tank containing wastewater ruptured. The polluted river caused a chain reaction . . . crops were contaminated, thus rendering them unfit for consumption. Fish were killed or infected, which then sickened or killed birds and animals consuming the fish. 8. Mercury Poisoning in Japan Chisso Corporation’s chemical factory released wastewater containing methylmercury. This didn’t just happen once. It actually took place over a span of 36 years. Both fish and shellfish accumulated high levels of mercury and then passed the poison on when consumed. It wasn’t’ until more than 30 years had gone by with death after death of human, dog, cat, and other animals that the company was finally held responsible. 7. Radiation Release from Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania Even though the leak was one-thousandth the magnitude of radiation released in Chernobyl, the effects were still similar in many ways. Farm animals died, elderly people reportedly died prematurely, local residents began developing cancer, and birth defects became more prevalent. 6. Amoco Oil Spill near France 230,000 tons of crude oil were spilled off the coast of Brittany, France in March of 1978. The steering mechanism failed, and the supertanker began drifting closer and closer to shore. Eventually the hull snagged the rocks and was torn open. 186 miles of coastline were contaminated. Besides destroying seaweed beds and the oysters living in them, the spill also took out many fisheries. 5. Dioxin Crisis in ItalyMeda, Italy experienced an explosion in a TCP reactor in July 1976. The eruption created a cloud of TCDD that ended up traveling downwind to a residential area where 3,300 animals died within days, and over 80,000 animals were eventually slaughtered to prevent TCDD from entering the food chain. Although the cloud affected 11 different areas, this incident received its name from the town of Seveso. People who came into contact with this cloud showed not only visible symptoms such as leisions, but many had long-term health issues as well. 4. Union Carbide Gas Leak December of 1984 was when a cloud of methyl isocyante gas and other chemicals escaped from a pesticide factory in Bhopal, India. This cloud spread over an area of 30 square miles and killed over 4,000 people instantly. Well over 50,000 people became ill, up to 11,000 eventually died from their illnesses. Around 100,000 people suffer still today from this gas leak. 3. London Smog The thickest smog to ever form in London occurred in December of 1952. It didn’t only last for a day or two; instead it lasted until March of the following year. With very little rain and light winds, the conditions were excellent for making a huge batch of smog. The cold winter had caused everyone to stoke up their coal-burning stoves more than usual. After the smog had finally subsided, a total of 12,000 people had died. 2. Love Canal When strange odors became noticeable in the quiet neighborhood of Love Canal in Niagara Falls, NY, people began to wonder from where it was coming. Illnesses, birth defects, and miscarriages started happening much more often, and an activist decided to investigate. Upon checking into why these things were happening, it was discovered that 21,000 tons of toxic waste had been buried beneath the neighborhood. Not only was TCDD present, which is a form of dioxin, but there were 248 additional chemicals as well. 900 families had to be relocated. Love Canal in large part led to the creation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly referred to as “Superfund.” 1. Chernobyl The 1986 nuclear incident that took place on this site in the Ukraine is the worst nuclear power plant accident and probably the worst environmental catastrophe to ever have happened. Not only were western Russia as well as Europe affected by radiation, but also from lead contamination. In the aftermath of the accident, 237 people suffered from acute radiation sickness (ARS), of whom 31 died within the first three months. Life expectancy has shortened by many years and birth defects are common. Out of the 10 deadliest environmental contamination’s globally that are listed above, which one do you think should be listed as number one?