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worst polluted places

A dosimeter shows the current radiation level outside the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. In the background is Fourth Block of the plant, where the Chernobyl accident occurred on April 26, 1986 during an ill-advised late night safety test. After 21 years, the radiation outside the plant remains high enough that stopping here for more than a brief period is not recommended.
Today the Blacksmith Institute released their annual list of the worst polluted places on the planet. It should surprise no one to see Chernobyl on the list. I've been working with Blacksmith to prepare for this news release, and they wanted half a dozen of my photos to accompany the story. In the end, however, they chose a gritty B&W photo of a mutated boy in Belarus as the lead image.

People equate radiation with birth defects, but as usual, the truth is a lot more complicated. I've yet to find good statistics on the rates of birth defects around Chernobyl, but they are not as common as you'd believe after seeing such photos. In my 4 months around Chernobyl, I looked for but did not find a single mutant.

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