WORST POLLUTERS OF ALL TIMES



  1. Warren Anderson, former head of Union Carbide and a man so hated in India, Gandhi himself would kick him right in the jewels given half a chance.

What makes him evil:
As CEO of the multibillion dollar chemical manufacturer, he contributed to what is cheerfully referred to as the “worst industrial accident ever”. A plant in Bhopal, India that manufactured concentrated poison (the best kind of poison) suffered a massive breach, releasing 42 tons of gas.
Authorities indicate the many, many safety flaws in the plant were known to Anderson and others before the spill. Reports of the dangers were recorded at least two years before the disaster as well as smaller incidents that were swept under the rug. While the sister American plant was kept up to code, the Indian plant was left to adopt a more “try not to inhale the deadly toxins” approach. Half a million people were exposed, tens of thousands of people died and the plant was left abandoned to keep on contaminating the soil and groundwater, because it’s not like people were using those things.
Anderson made a trip to India shortly after the leak with the promise he would not be charged. Naturally, he was promptly arrested for his role in the disaster. Recalling that the excellent exchange rate was one of the reasons for the plant in the first place, he paid the $12 US bail (or whatever) and escaped by private jet back to the States.

  1. Lido “Lee” Iacocca, known for revitalizing American car companies and blatantly playing the government for saps before it was cool.

What makes him evil:
In a word, scale. Iacocca was a busy man, and opted to just having everyone trash the planet for him.
Iacocca started his war on the earth during his time at Chrysler and Ford, where he pioneered the “family friendly” minivan (as well as the Pinto and K-car, which were part of his wars on safety and style, respectively). The minivan, of course, paved the way for a plethora of large, inefficient vehicles including the infamous sport utility vehicle, or SUV. These were a great success for Chrysler, sacrificing fuel economy for the illusion of safety, not to mention huge profit margins.
Eventually, new legislation was proposed which would dash the profitability of the new behemoths through fuel standards. Iacocca dug deep, used his power and connections and in an act of mind-numbing evil genius, he successfully lobbied congress to classify minivans and SUVs as “light trucks”. This loophole exempted them from fuel standards and safety regulations under a provision intended for farm vehicles.
What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like auto makers would stop making quality compacts and sedans just because “light trucks” were insanely profitable, right?
Today, American vehicles make up 30% of cars, but produce half of the total pollutants produced by automobiles. While high fuel prices have reduced sales of “light trucks” (resulting in cataclysmic effects on the automakers and the economy) the backlog of the husky road hogs won’t be reduced for at least another generation. Iacocca is retired and spends his time marrying and divorcing younger women, endorsing politicians nobody likes and calling younger generations douchebags for electing those politicians.

  1. Denis L. Feron, non-accomplished alpine skier and owner of the largest non-mined copper refiner in the United States.
The list of people and companies that could fit this mould is staggering: dumping waste pretty much anywhere is a fairly profitable and widespread business. Denis Feron gets the nod for the size, location and bizarre inability to pass the blame.

What makes him evil:
A proud son of Belgium, he spent his youth underperforming in several downhill skiing events in the ’52 and ’56 Winter Olympics. He then moved to the United States where he parlayed those flexible skills to the world of heavy metal smelting. He established Chemetco in 1970, subscribing to the popular “abbreviate scary words” school of business naming. Using a variety of techniques, his company recycled slag and wastes to extract copper. Chemetco was responsible for 50% of recycled US copper and in 1999 they had revenue to the tune of half a billion per year.
While profitable, copper refining is dirty work with a variety of waste products that can be expensive to dispose of. That is unless you just ignore all environmental legislation and do whatever you want. At the time, they were the biggest producer of atmospheric lead in the United States. Rather than fully separate scrap copper from computers and other consumer products, they simply burned it all, releasing huge amounts of dangerous dioxins. Waste sulfuric acid was released into farmer’s fields nearby. The damning evidence was the discovery of a secret pipe which released a cocktail of heavy metals from copper slag into a river. Every time it rained. For ten years. Delightfully, the plants location was a water source for a number of surrounding communities, farms, and wetlands, as well as being a tributary for the Mississippi river.
Upon discovery of his crimes, Feron took his cue from the great villains and fled to avoid massive fines and jailtime. Rumor has it he escaped in a balloon shaped like his own head while twirling a moustache and swearing revenge. He also had the distinction of actually being on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Most Wanted list, which turns out to be a real thing. Recently, he was caught, paid a half million dollar fine, and served no jail time. Luckily, that fraction of the fortune he made will undo all the damage he caused.


  1. William J.A. Bailey, who made it his life’s mission to promote the curative properties of ingesting radium, a highly radioactive metal.

What makes him evil:
Willy made up for his soft, vulnerable flesh by successfully destroying the soft, vulnerable bodies of the unsuspecting general public. After failing out of Harvard medical school he went ahead and just called himself a doctor anyway. Then, following an arrest for selling stolen cars in 1915, he straightened up and began selling radioactive water as medicine in 1918.
The good “doctor” patented and sold Radithor, a delightful combination of one microcurie of highly radioactive radium and water. Radium (and largely radiation) was discovered in 1898 by the Curie’s and was poorly understood. He marketed his drug as a cure for everything that people didn’t understand well, such as diabetes, migraines and anemia. He also went after the hypochondriac market segment, toting the vague ability to restore pep, vigor and as “a cure for the living dead” (a quaint reference to sexual inadequacy). Another of his products advertised “renewed happiness and youthful thrill into the lives of married peoples whose attractions to each other had weakened”, proving people will do pretty much anything for the promise of getting laid.


Bailey sold hundreds of thousands of bottles of Radithor as well as other radioactive “cures”. His empire came crashing down in 1932, thanks to an industrialist and ladies man by the name of Eben Byers. For years Byers had enthusiastically taken Radithor, drinking over 1400 bottles and recommending it so highly he stopped just short of injecting people on the street. Unfortunately for him, in the body radium is treated like calcium and ends up in the bones. Even after stopping his “treatments” in 1930, Byers quickly (and literally) deteriorated. His radioactive bones rotted away, causing him to lose most of his upper and lower jaw as well as parts of his skull. When he died, 36 mg of radium were found in his body (radium is usually lethal at 10 mg).
Bailey was forced to close shop, and like a true villain escaped any form of punishment. Having made a small fortune from his horror drink, he went on to retire comfortably. Eventually he died of bladder cancer in his 60’s, comforted by the sorrow he had brought on mankind. When both Bailey and Byers’ bodies were exhumed 30 years after Bailey’s death, they were both found to be radioactive.

  1. Griselda Blanco, who built an empire and a city on nothing but cocaine money and ruthless insanity.

What makes her evil:
She got her start early, kidnapping and later killing a child at age 11 in her native Columbia. Leaving home, she supported herself smuggling drugs, prostitution and the ol’ “get married, get divorced, kill your ex, get remarried” scheme. With her second husband, she got into the cocaine business and she moved to New York where they made millions in a few years before fleeing indictment.
After a layover in Columbia where she shot her hubby in the head, making her the de facto head of her criminal organization, she moved to Miami in the late 1970’s. Blanco pioneered the city’s shift from marijuana to cocaine and ruthlessly expanded her operations. She is believed to have ordered between two hundred and two hundred and fifty murders, with a standing order of “no survivors and no witnesses, not even women and children”.
In her prime, she ran so much they called her the Godmother. She actually named her youngest son Michael Corleone. She was living the high life and amassed a fortune of over half a billion dollars. This influx of drug money resulted in huge economic growth for Miami, with the downside of having drug lords owning a stake in virtually everything. The business of smuggling was huge, and the resulting epidemic of crime became of the stuff of legend. When the authorities finally cracked down on the drug lords in the late 1980’s, there was a wave of economic failure from businesses propped up by dirty money.
Blanco was arrested on distribution charges after fleeing to California. While on the inside, she continued to run her empire, avenge the killings of her three eldest sons and orchestrate an attempted kidnapping on JFK Jr, putting her in the “kidnap a president’s child” level of supervillainy. Even with the crackdown on her empire, she was able to avoid any additional charges and was released in 2004, deported to Columbia, where she still lives, stomping on kittens and knitting itchy sweaters (maybe).

  1. Thomas Midgley, an American inventor who actually did develop a more toxic car fuel. And almost destroyed the ozone layer.

It has been said that Midgley had more of an impact on the atmosphere than any other person in Earth’s history. This is, like most grandiose claims, a vast understatement. Factoring in the negative effects on agriculture and human health and contributions to global warming, one might argue Midgley has had more of a negative impact on the entire earth than any single organism in history.
What makes him evil:
An engineer turned chemist, he came up with tetraethel lead (TEL) gasoline while working at GM as a way to eliminate engine knock and boost efficiency. This increase in engine efficiency was somewhat offset by some environmental and human concerns, namely widespread lead contamination in the environment and life shattering medical problems for workers making the additive. Dozens of workers at the plants died and many others were plagued with poisoning, madness and hallucinations. Midgley himself was forced to take large breaks from work due to accumulated lead poisoning, the second of which was caused by a publicity stunt where he breathed in and washed his hands with TEL to mislead the press.
Not content with poisoning land and sea with lead, Midgley unintentionally completed his trifecta of evil with the invention of Freon, the first chloroflurocarbon (CFC), as a refrigerant in 1930. Freon and other CFC’s have the ability when released into the atmosphere to diffuse upward and break down the ozone that filters out much of the dangerous UV light from the sun. Unlike his leaded gasoline, the negative consequence of Freon and other CFC’s were not known to Midgley and their ozone destroying powers were not discovered for another four decades, enough time to tear holes in the ozone layer bigger than Antarctica.


In his day, Midgley was well respected and received a number of awards. Thankfully the earth, fed up with his antics and fearing Midgley’s next invention would be the world’s last, struck him with polio. Ever the inventor, he developed a contraption to get in and out of bed using string and pullies. His final crime against nature backfired a year later however, when he got tangled in the ropes and died of irony (and also strangulation).

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