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Journey To The Dirtiest City On Earth

Via Dave Roberts, the folks at traveled to the Chinese city of Linfen, a coal-mining town that has the frequent honor of being ranked the most polluted city on the planet. (Granted, the rankings do shift, depending on what's being measured: The decaying Azerbaijani city of Sumgayit—a former Soviet petrochemical complex turned toxic wasteland, where cancer rates are now 22 percent to 51 percent higher than the rest of the country—holds top spot on some surveys.) A day's stroll through Linfen, says the narrator, is like sucking down three packs of cigarettes. Anyway, the whole documentary is very well done—here's the first part:

The good news, such as it is: Linfen is actually getting cleaner, as officials shut down some of the smaller, filthier iron foundries and coking plants and replace them with larger, slightly-less-dirty plants: In 2005, there were 178 days of "unhealthy" air, which dropped to… 163 in 2006, causing the city to briefly lose out its "most-polluted" status to Urumqi, another Chinese city. Still don't recommend it as a vacation spot, but I suppose that counts as progress.

--Bradford Plumer