Is this the most polluted place on Earth? The Russian lake where an hour on the beach would kill you…
If you're looking for a lakeside retreat on a budget, it's likely you could easily pick up a villa near to Russia's beautiful Lake Karachay and still have change left for a new sofa.
But it's probably worth bearing in mind that in 1990 just standing on the shore for an hour would give you a radiation of dose of 600 roentgen.
In case you were wondering, that's more than enough to kill you.
The lake, in Russia's south-west Chelyabinsk region, close to the modern border with Kazakhstan, is located within the Mayak Production Association, one of the country's largest — and leakiest — nuclear facilities.
Built in the Forties as Soviets moved armament production east to avoid the Nazi invasion, Mayak was one of the Russia's most important nuclear weapons factories and was off limits to foreigners for 45 years.
It was only after President Boris Yeltsin signed a 1992 decree opening up the area that Western scientists were able to gain access - and promptly declared it the planet's most polluted area.
In their long decades of obscurity, the nuclear engineers at Mayak spent their time mainly having nuclear meltdowns and dumping radioactive waste into the river.
The watered-down waste was a cocktail of radioactive elements, including long-lived fission products such as Strontium-90 and Cesium-137–each with a half-life of approximately thirty years.
When their facility's existence was finally acknowledged, the Chelyabinsk region had seen a 21 per cent increase in cancer, a 25 per cent increase in birth defects, and a 41 per cent increase in leukaemia.
The nearby Techa river, on which several villages relied for water, was so contaminated that up to 65 per cent of locals were stricken with radiation sickness.
Prevented from mentioning radiation in their diagnoses, doctors treating those who had fallen ill termed the sickness 'special disease'. Even then, these notes were classified until 1990.
The rural communities surrounding the nuclear facility suffered greatly from their government's nuclear arms race with the U.S.
Eager to catch up with the technological development of Western weapons, the Mayak engineers didn't worry too much about safety and the facility suffered several major accidents in the Fifties and Sixties.
By the mid-Fifties they decided, belatedly, to cease dumping nuclear waste into nearby lakes and rivers, instead pumping it into a row of vats. Then in September 1957 they exploded with a force equivalent to about 85 tons of TNT, spewing about 70 tons of radioactive waste a mile high.
The dust cloud spread isotopes of cesium and strontium over 9,000 square miles, affecting some 270,000 Soviet citizens and their food supplies.
With their waste storage system obliterated, authorities decided to direct Malak's constant flow of radioactive effluent into Lake Karachay, which lacked any surface outlets making engineers optimistic that anything dumped there would be entombed indefinitely.
This worked okay for ten years, until a severe drought struck the whole of Chelyabinsk. Lake Karachay gradually began to dry up, exposing the radioactive sediment in its basin. The spread of toxic dust peppered about 900 square miles of land with Strontium-90, Caesium-137 and a host of other unpleasant elements.
Today, huge tracts of Chelyabinsk remain uninhabitable as a result of the river contamination, the 1957 blast and the 1967 drought. Lake Karachay's surface is now more concrete than water, but its contamination is still not contained.
Estimates suggest approximately a billion gallons of groundwater have been contaminated with 5 megacuries of radionuclides and even today, the local population still does not know the actual levels of radioisotopes in its home grown products.