The 7 Dirtiest Jobs

PHOTO: Mike Rowe attends the Premiere Of Discovery Communication's "Planet Green" at the Greek Theatre on May 28, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Mike Rowe knows a thing or two about getting dirty. That's because Rowe, the creator and executive producer of Discovery Channel's Emmy-nominated series Dirty Jobs With Mike Rowe, has tried over 300 greasy, sooty, oily, charcoaly, dusty, grimy jobs, so you don't have to.

And we wondered: What are seven of the grossest jobs out there? Which jobs will go down in history as the absolute worst for dry cleaning? Which professions made him long for a shower?

Undoubtedly, they have to do with mining and farming. "Every single thing we do is a derivative of something we grow from the ground or mine from the ground," Rowe told ABC News.

Here they are.

PHOTO: A Chinese labourer works at a local furnace producing charcoal on May 2, 2005 in Chuzhou of Anhui Province, China.
China Photos/Getty Images
Charcoal Maker

"Labor Day cookouts don't happen without a relatively small number of people walking into what amounts to a giant bunker where scrap wood is slowly charred for 72 hours," said Rowe. It's not burned, but rather charred, like a S'more, "just to the point where it becomes internally toasted. Then you hammer the wood, beat it to pieces, and there's smoke everywhere, and you look like Al Jolson."

PHOTO: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has requested records from this Northern Alberta Processing Co. rendering plant in Edmonton on December 31, 2003.
John Ulan/CP/AP Photo

This rather unpleasant process essentially recycles dead animals into products like chicken feed and biodiesel, so the plants are loaded with carcasses and animal remains. "It's a blood bath—no one wants to see it or talk about it," said Rowe. "It took me years to convince a camera crew to go inside a rendering operation. The smell is indescribable; the sights are something out of Kafka. But the finished product is something really valuable. Basically, all leather products come from dead livestock and have to go through this process."

Animal Bone Charrer

Bone char (or bone black) is a granular material that comes from charring animal bones. "Bone black is used today in all kinds of lubricants and is huge in the cosmetics industries," said Rowe. It's also used to remove fluoride from water and to filter aquarium water.

PHOTO: A maintenance worker's view from the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan beats any corner office in the country.
Bruce Edwards/Getty Images
Mackinac Bridge painter

The Mackinac Bridge is called the "Mighty Mack" for a reason. Five times longer than the Golden Gate Bridge and over 600 feet tall, it spans Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. "It's an endless job," said Rowe. "The paint is a bright green and it needs to be employed constantly. When you finish, you're covered in green paint."

PHOTO: Opal miner John Shane inspects a rock face in his underground mine June 12, 2005 in the outback mining town of Coober Pedy, Australia.
Ian Waldie/Getty Images
Opal Miner

Cooper Pedy, Australia, is the opal mining capital of the world. The job involves being lowered into a hole about 80 feet into the Earth. "It's insanely claustrophobic and insanely dangerous," said Rowe.

Not to mention insanely unclean. "You're in a hole covered in dirt," he said. "It's like being two inches tall at the bottom of a Coke bottle."

PHOTO: A studio shot of man's hands on dirt. The process to sterilize dirt is one of the dirtiest jobs in the world.
Getty Images/Rubberball
Dirt sterilizer

"The oil spills that get all the press happen offshore," said Rowe. "The ones that get no press are when a pipe ruptures underground, inland. The soil is still contaminated with raw crude but you can't see it. Teams need to come in to literally sterilize the dirt, sometimes for years." By the end of a shift, workers don't even look like people, he said. "It's pure brown dusty dirt."

Lift Pump Replacement Technician

This is one of the last hands-on jobs in waste water management, and it is decidedly gross. "What makes the job horrible is that you've got to get the broken lift out and the new one in," said Rowe. "To do this, you have to wade–and sometimes swim–through human waste."

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