The Ten Filthiest Cities


Ahhh, urban living. Everything nearby, convenient public services, lots of great places to eat…and legions of people, throwing out tons of garbage, every day. Most cities can stay on top of their garbage piles…but some, not so much. Here are ten cities germophobes and neat freaks should avoid.

Mumbai, India

Mumbai might just be the litter capital of the world, which makes sense, as its insanely overcrowded. Every public service, from trains to roads, is strained to the breaking point. Which wouldn’t be so problematic except the same is true of the sewers and drainage system, and Mumbai gets monsoons. Bring galoshes, and possibly a full-body hazmat suit.

Cuidad Juarez, Mexico

Most of Mexico is actually pretty nice. Yeah, it’s the Third World, but it’s the kind of country where people generally keep things neat. Unfortunately, they have a serious drug crime problem, and that can make some cities…interesting.

The most “interesting” is Cuidad Juarez, which is essentially a city run by criminals. And criminals aren’t interested in, say, picking up the trash or filling in potholes…which is ironic in light of the fact the drug dealers that run the place? Yeah, they’re all driving fancy cars. Hope your fancy car includes some very fancy shocks, Mr. Coke Exporter.

Pittsburgh, USA

Let’s take a moment from picking on the Third World to picking on Pittsburgh, the place where they put fries in their sandwiches. No, really, they do that. They also have the worst air in America in terms of solid objects floating in it.

And that’s not the smell of Steelers fans after too many beers at the game (or Pirates fans upon waking up and realizing their home team is still the Pirates). It’s because of all the soot and exhaust in the air, so much of it that Pittsburgh comes in second on year-round levels of small particles in the air and first in short-term particle pollution. This is partially due to cars, partially due to everything being powered by coal, and partially due to what remains of the steel industry. Also, some of it comes from Ohio, because Ohio’s just nasty like that.

And yes, it’s worse than Los Angeles.

Norlisk, Russia

Norlisk has a proud history of…er…being a slave labor camp. Yeah. Believe it or not, things have actually gotten worse.

Pollution is pretty standard when your main industry is pulling metal out of the ground, but Norlisk still manages to over achieve, dumping 4 million tons of metal dust into the air yearly, with ingredients like yummy cadmium and arsenic. It’s so bad trees can’t survive, and yet the Russians endure.

Linfen, China

The Chinese aren’t really noted for their respect of, well, anything that doesn’t make them money, so when even the Chinese government think Linfen is a craphole, you know you’ve got problems.

Most of China runs on coal, and most of that coal comes from Linfen. It’s mined there, and it’s burned there, and both are done so often that you can’t hang your laundry out to dry because it’ll turn black.

Los Angeles, USA

What, you thought that just because we were beating on Pittsburgh, LA wasn’t going to make the list? Of course not! But, don’t worry, the factories in Jersey have been shut down long enough we won’t be hitting that stereotype.

Why does LA make the list if Pittsburgh has crappier air? Because LA has more nasty gasses, not little particles! Namely, it’s got ozone, which is great when it’s way, way up there in the ozone layer, but has this nasty tendency to destroy lungs. LA remains number one in this respect, but, on the bright side, they’re not Pittsburgh.

La Oroya, Peru

Lead is not a friendly metal. Sure, it protects us from radiation, but you don’t want it anywhere near you outside of the dentist. Which is bad news for La Oroya, which has as its main industry…lead smelting.

That smelter has been at it since 1922, and there’s so much lead in the air, soil, and water that 99% of the kids there test for three times the acceptable amount. Oh, and there’s neither money nor resources to clean it up; this stuff’s going to be there for centuries. Kind of the gift that keeps on giving.

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City is shafted not by regulations or by drug lords or by companies, but by geography. There are a lot of people driving a lot of cars, which means a lot of exhaust. Unfortunately, Mexico City is sitting in a valley, and it’s about a mile and a half above sea level. This means thin air and weak winds. Which means that everything put in the air over Mexico City stays there.

Pernik, Bulgaria

First, it must be said that Bulgaria itself is kind of a dirty place. People mostly burn coal to deal with the long winters, and most of the cars are the kind of Soviet nightmares that lack seat-belts, let alone fancy schmancy pollution-reducing catalytic converters.

So if you’re the energy center of Bulgaria, with a coal mine, AND a thriving metallurgy industry on top of that…well, being the filthiest of the filthiest isn’t hard to pull off. Welcome to Pernik, where if it’s not on fire, it’s metal, and it’s all trying to kill you. No wonder these people drink.

Vapi, India

Vapi is a thriving and busy industrial center. Unfortunately, most of those industries are chemical. And what isn’t chemical is actually the water treatment plant trying to clean the crud from the chemical industries.

As a result, Vapi is a bit messy. Pretty much all of the water, soil and air is saturated in stuff you don’t want to breathe, drink, or eat. And it’s got plenty of residents too!

On the bright side, at least they don’t have Mumbai’s drainage problems. Well, we hope, anyway.

This article was written by Dan Seitz.


  1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil should be on the list. You can feel the vapor from the urine on the streets hitting your face as you go for a walk.

  2. As much as I like reading this blog and as much as I agree that Pernik, Bulgaria (number 9) is a dirty city, I would like to make a few comments. First of all – the picture is not from Pernik, it is from Sofia. The description of the country itself is pretty harsh and it might have been true… if this article was written in 1990. There are really few (and by few I mean a few hundred) “soviet nightmares” left in the country and they all have seat-belts :). However this article describes the entire country as dirty and unwelcoming. Taking the description of one city and applying it to a whole country is unfair. Bulgaria is a clean and beautiful country.

  3. The promo photo you used for this article looks like Naples Italy. That should definitely be on the list. The city is run by the Mafia and they constantly have issues with corruption that means trash doesn’t get cleaned up and pot holes get larger.

  4. So they used photo of Napoli, Italy as illustration for this article but they didnt put the city on the list…

  5. Only 1 on the list from China? You’ve got to be shitting me. This list was a ridiculous waste of my time. Just thought I’d share that.

  6. That’s preposterous. Neither Pittsburgh nor LA are anywhere NEAR the dirtiest cities on the planet.

  7. Pittsburgh is not only as dirty as you say, but the readings are skewed:

    The readings are taken near the Clairton Coke Works and you obviously haven’t seen the massive clean up (red up) the city has undertaken in the past 2 decades.

    PS: Fries on sandwiches are excellent…should try it sometime.

  8. Listen, I don’t mind the publication about us drinking and so on and so forth but the picture that you have is of SOFIA! Completely different city that I happen to be from so please do change it.

  9. I agree Tsanko, Bulgaria is incredibly beautiful and from what I saw very clean. As for the cars, I’d take an old Lada over your Nazi sled any day.

    What about Cairo, 15 million people and 20 million camels and the heat, my god the heat.
    Kathmandu is deserving of a spot as is the entire country of Pakistan.

  10. Pittsburgh? Really? I think someone needs to see more of the country, or world for that matter. Pittsburgh may have has that reputation from the steel industry as being a dirty city in the earlier part of the century, but it’s actually one of the more progressive, greener cities now.

  11. Pittsburgh and LA aren’t perfect by any means but should they be on this list? How about Baku, Azerbaijan or Antananarivo, Madagascar ?

  12. I have visited most of the cities on this list and have to be another flag-bearer for Pittsburgh. Downtown Pittsburgh is spotlessly clean, safe and fun. In fact it is one of my favorite cities. It is irresponible to publish something like this. I currently live in Knoxville TN which consistently has worse air ratings than Pittsburgh. I don’t think anybody with half a brain would compare us to Mumbai.

  13. You forgot Manila. It’s at least 70% slum with at least 50% of water connections illegally tapped. The air is full or particulates, garbage almost everywhere, etc. It’s a garbage city riddled with crimes and corruption.

  14. I’d be interested to know where this information came from. I wouldn’t say that Pittsburgh is one of the cleanest cities in the world, but certainly should not be listed as the 3rd dirtiest! Pittsburgh has not been a steel town in decades and has come a long way. It’s disappointing to hear the perceptions of Pittsburgh because it has come a long way since the times when it mainly produced steel.

  15. Oh..this list probably not the experience for the author. I think there are lots more place dirtier, such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, some country in Europe, lots of country in Africa. Should do more research 🙂

  16. Someone commented on why there weren’t any more Chinese cities on the list. I’ve been there many times. Most of the cities are very clean. They have armies of street/sidewalk sweepers working all the time. Some of the sidewalks would put most American cities to shame.

  17. Pittsburgh? Compared to Santiago, Chile, where you have to chew the air so you can breath it, Pittsburgh is pristine…

  18. last week our class held a similar talk on this topic and you point out something we have not covered yet, appreciate that.

    – Kris

  19. Not only is this list rather inaccurate , but to put Pittsburgh 3rd on the list? Wow and to put LA on there too. The guy who posted this must be like a ravens fan or something. No offense to the Ravens good team. But this dude is a douche. Obviously he didn’t hear that one of the reason for the G20 summit being in Pittsburgh was because of how clean the city had become.

    Oh yeah one more thing… People all over the country and world put fries on their sandwiches. And do you know why? Cause it taste awesome.

  20. I cannot believe Pittsburgh is on the list but Mumbai is given the position it deserves.This city would have been one of the beautiful cities in the world if India was under British rule.I am ashamed to say that I belong to a country whose financial capital is also on the top 10 dirtiest cities in the world.

  21. Sorry Try Naples Italy, you can’t walk anywhere without stepping in Human Crap, they have streets lined with Trash 5 feet high for hundreds of feet.

  22. Well mumbai is one city that is closin in on stink chokin on its shit-pune ewyuu filth,spitting,dirty rivers +dust bush crappin… India is the most dirtiest place in the world.sad they have no idea.every one thinks african cities shuld be mention..yes but very few cities are crowded.

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