The South is home to some of the world’s highest concentrations of rare earth chemicals, including cadmium, manganese, copper and zinc, the World Health Organisation said in a report.
“This is because these chemicals are vital for the manufacture of the most valuable materials used in the industry,” the organisation said in its report.
It added that there were also more rare earth metals, platinum, chromium and palladium in the region.
The WHO also said that “many” of the chemicals in South Africa are being used for the production of paints and coatings, and that “the concentration of rare-earth metals in South African soil has increased by almost 40 per cent over the last two decades”.
A spokesman for the South African Department of Environment and Tourism said the government is working with its foreign partners to ensure the safety of South African land, water and air.
He added that the government’s role in the country’s environmental protection is to protect the environment and the health of South Africans.
He said the country has a long track record of addressing air pollution and is one of the top performers in global standards for air quality.
South Africa has a strong and vibrant eco-tourism industry, with the South Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industry claiming its tourism industry generates more than $100 billion for the country each year.
But experts say the industry faces challenges in attracting the South Africans it wants to attract.
“We’re still at the stage where we’re still trying to work out what it is we want to attract here,” Dr Siyabele Ngoepe, who heads the National Commission on the Environment and Natural Resources, told the ABC.
“It’s hard to attract people who are going to spend all their time in the tourist centres and they don’t want to come to the rural areas.”