Toxic waste sites take toll on millions in poor nations

Living near a toxic waste site can be a recipe for poor health. And scientists know that the problem is widespread in developing countries where there are few cleanup programs. A pair of new studies adds a level of much-needed detail about exactly how widespread and harmful the problem can be.

One study led by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City looked at 373 sites across India, the Philippines and Indonesia, and calculated how much damage elevated levels of lead, chromium and other chemicals imparted to human health. That work, published online in Environmental Health Perspectives on May 4, found that living near toxic sites leads to health impacts comparable to all the combined malaria issues in those three countries, or as much as the total negative impacts of air pollution.