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An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant sent clouds of radioactive particles into the air creating a 1,100-square-mile evacuated area into a nuclear dead zone in Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986.
The tanker Exxon-Valdez ran aground on March 1989, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound off Alaska.
Love Canal is a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York, which became the subject of controversy after it was discovered that the community was built over an area was originally the site of an abandoned canal that became a dumping ground for 22,000 tons of toxic chemical waste produced by the Hooker Chemicals and Plastics Corporation in the 1940s and ’50s.
The world’s biggest oil spill occurred during the Gulf War in 1991 when Saddam Hussein purposely pumped from 240 million to 460 million gallons into the Persian Gulf.
The Bhopal disaster happened in 1984 near the Indian city of Madhya Pradesh, when a pesticide plant released large amounts of toxic gas that killed upward of 30,000 people in the surrounding area. It is reported that Indians were still dying from the exposure 25 years later.
The Aral Sea began drying up in the late 1960s after the Soviet Government diverted rivers that fed the sea toward the desert to irrigate cotton. Communities around the former sea now struggle with little groundwater and suffer respiratory problems from dust particles in the air.
Times Beach, Missouri, was completely evacuated early in 1983 after roads were sprayed with an oil mix created in a factory that once produced Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The drying and dusting of the road surface resulted in the largest civilian exposure to dioxin in the United States.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating collection of trash in the central North Pacific Ocean that is estimated to cover an area the size of the state of Texas. But the exact size is unknown.
An estimated leak of 1,000 barrels of oil a day are to date leaking into the gulf of Mexico after an explosion and fire destroyed a BP oil rig on April 21, 2010. The oil slick threatens the delicate ecosystem of coastal Louisiana. Experts say the spill could be as large, and as potentially devastating, as the Exxon-Valdez disaster.
The Palomares Incident occurred on January 17, 1966, when a bomber collided with a tanker during mid-air refueling. Two of the four hydrogen bombs. the bomber was carrying detonated upon impacting the ground, resulting in the contamination of a 490-acre area with radioactive plutonium off the coast of Spain.
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