This Is The Most Toxic City In America

Picher, Oklahoma was evacuated in 2006 and is known as the most toxic city in America. All photos by Seph Lawless

There’s always something eerie about ghost towns, and Picher in Oklahoma is probably one of the most terrifying examples in the U.S. Today the town is a post-apocalyptic vision, and photographer Seph Lawless was able to access a previously restricted area to take incredible pictures.

The town was abandoned in 2006 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a mandatory evacuation due to extremely dangerous lead poisoning, although some residents refused to leave for many years. Picher was a productive mining community that produced 50 percent of the lead and zinc used during World War I, and the mining continued until 1967.

Contaminated water and materials from over 14,000 mines spread to the ground, buildings, and people, and in 1996, 34 percent of the town’s children had lead poisoning.     

Picher might be an extreme example of industrial interests trumping environmental concerns, but it’s not too far removed from what’s happening in Flint, Michigan at the moment. More pictures can be found in Lawless’s book "The Prelude: The Deadliest City in America" or on Lawless’s Instagram.

Picher, Oklahoma was evacuated in 2006, and is known as the most toxic city in America. All photos by Seph Lawless


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