Only six countries meet WHO air pollution targets

air pollution

Only six countries met WHO air pollution targets last year: Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland and New Zealand.

Lahore in Pakistan is the city with the worst air pollution in the world according to a new global survey by IQAir. The 5th Annual World Air Quality Report reveals alarming details of the world’s most polluted countries, territories and regions in 2022. 

Data from more than 30,000 air quality monitoring stations across 7,323 locations in 131 countries, territories and regions was analysed by IQAir’s air quality scientists and based on WHO PM2.5 air quality targets. The top five most polluted countries in 2022 were:

Chad (89.7 µg/m3) more than 17 times higher than the WHO PM2.5 annual guideline

Iraq (80.1 µg/m3) more than 16 times higher than the WHO PM2.5 annual guideline

Pakistan (70.9 µg/m3) more than 14 times higher than the WHO PM2.5 annual guideline

Bahrain (66.6 µg/m3) more than 13 times higher than the WHO PM2.5 annual guideline

Bangladesh (65.8 µg/m3) more than 13 times higher than the WHO PM2.5 annual guideline

A total of 118 (90 per cent) out of 131 countries and regions exceeded the WHO annual PM2.5 guideline value of 5 µg/m3. While the African continent saw an increase from 13 countries represented in 2021 to 19 countries included in this year’s report, Africa remains the most under-represented continent. Only 19 countries out of 54 countries have sufficient air quality data.

Central and South Asia was home to eight of the world’s ten cities with the worst air pollution. Lahore is the most polluted metropolitan area of 2022. It ranked #15 in 2021. Chile became home to eight of the region’s top 15 most polluted cities.

The most polluted city in the U.S. was Coffeyville, Kansas. The most polluted major U.S. city was Columbus, Ohio. California was home to 10 of the 15 most polluted cities in the U.S. Las Vegas was deemed the cleanest major city in the U.S.

While the number of countries and regions with air quality monitoring has steadily increased over the past five years, there remain significant gaps in government-operated regulatory instrumentation in many parts of the world. Gaps in air quality monitoring data where pollution is likely poor further underline the need to expand air quality monitoring coverage worldwide. 

“In 2022, more than half of the world’s air quality data was generated by grassroots community efforts,” said Frank Hammes, global CEO, IQAir. “When citizens get involved in air quality monitoring, we see a shift in awareness and the joint effort to improve air quality intensifies. We need governments to monitor air quality, but we cannot wait for them. Air quality monitoring by communities creates transparency and urgency. It leads to collaborative actions that improves air quality.

“Too many people around the world don’t know that they are breathing polluted air. Air pollution monitors provide hard data that can inspire communities to demand change and hold polluters to account, but when monitoring is patchy or unequal, vulnerable communities can be left with no data to act on. Everyone deserves to have their health protected from air pollution,” said Aidan Farrow, air quality scientist, Greenpeace International.

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