The introduction or presence of pollutants that harm nature is considered pollution. Air and water pollution are two of the most common kinds of pollution, but many more. Examples of pollution include sound, light, and dirt.
People, plants, animals, and whole ecosystems may be adversely affected by a wide range of pollutants.
Impact of air pollution
Fossil fuel combustion is the primary source of new air pollution. Fuel-powered vehicles, such as automobiles, trucks, planes, and coal and oil-burning power plants and industries, are the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Particulate matter may be released into the air during any activity involving the burning of wood or fossil fuels. Tobacco goods, stoves, ovens, candles, and fireplaces fall under this category. Volcanoes and wildfires may also cause air pollution.
Air pollution has been linked to various health conditions, including breathing difficulties, asthma flare-ups, and even birth defects. Toxic contamination is one of the main risk factors for non-communicable illnesses worldwide, according to Pure Earth.
Non-communicable illnesses account for 72% of all fatalities, while hazardous pollution is responsible for 16% of those deaths. It is estimated that toxic pollution contributes to 22% of cardiovascular disease, 25% of stroke mortality; 40% of lung cancer death; and 53% of fatalities from COPD.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that air pollution kills an estimated 7,000 people every year. According to the World Health Organization over 90% of the world’s population lives in areas where air quality is worse than the WHO’s recommended standards.
EPA monitors five primary pollutants, all of which are controlled by the Clean Air Act, including carbon dioxide:
- Ozone at ground level
- particle pollution (also known as particulate matter, including PM2.5 and PM10)
- carbon monoxide
- sulfur dioxide
- nitrogen dioxide
Particle pollution is the most often seen of these. Using PM2.5 particle concentration, the World Health Organization determined the most polluted location. Fine particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) is a term used to describe airborne particles or droplets with a diameter of fewer than 2.5 microns (g).
This kind of air pollution, known as PM2.5, can harm human health if it is present at dangerously high levels. When circumstances are deemed harmful for certain populations, cities such as New York issue a PM2.5 Health Advisory.
During the last several years, wildfires have generated an increasing frequency of PM2.5 alerts in many other locations, including parts of Europe, Australia, Africa, and the west coast of the United States.
Atmospheric pollution levels of 0 to 10 parts per million (ppm) are the World Health Organization (WHO) goal for air pollution.
According to IQ Air, which monitors pollution levels in 109 countries across the world, any reading over 35.5 is considered unhealthy for sensitive populations, readings between 55.5 and 150.4 are considered unhealthy for everyone, and anything above is either extremely unhealthy (150.5-250.4) or dangerous (250.5 or higher).
Air Pollution Exposure – PM2.5 (µg/m³) in 10 Worst Countries:
- Bangladesh – 77.10
- Pakistan – 59.00
- India – 51.90
- Mongolia – 46.60
- Afghanistan – 46.50
- Oman – 44.40
- Qatar – 44.30
- Kyrgyzstan – 43.50
- Indonesia – 40.70
- Bonsia & Hezegovina – 40.60
However, the IQ Air list isn’t the sole source of air pollution information. The Health Effects Institute has compiled a list of 196 countries’ air pollution levels based on Seattle, Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation data.
State of Global Air 2020’s Top 10 Countries with the Worst Air Pollution – PM2.5 Exposure (µg/m³):
- India – 83.2
- Nepal – 83.1
- Niger – 80.1
- Qatar – 76
- Nigeria – 70.4
- Egypt – 67.9
- Mauritania – 66.8
- Cameroon – 64.5
- Bangladesh – 63.4
- Pakistan – 62.6
The IHME data contains 196 nations. However, IQ Air’s data only includes 109. This discrepancy is most likely due to discrepancies in the recording technologies used to compile each list. It’s still a very consistent list, with some nations appearing several times and others cutting.
The EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) is significantly more forgiving than the IQ Air scale (by roughly 50 g/m3) used by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Values between 0 and 100 are considered acceptable.
For the most part, readings between 101 and 200 are regarded safe, while those between 201 and 300 are considered dangerous for everyone. Values over 300 are considered dangerous for everyone.
The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) identifies the world’s cleanest nations based on their air and water quality and their environmental policies and activities. Switzerland, France, and Denmark are among the nations in this group.
A growing number of nations are turning to environmentally friendly alternatives to pollution to prevent additional harm to the planet. Conservationists are increasingly turning to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, environmentally friendly construction materials, and non-toxic goods.
Some nations have a long way to go, although these green projects are taking place all over the globe.
Profiles of the world’s most polluted countries, country by country (per IQ Air 2020):
A PM2.5 concentration of 77.10 ranks Bangladesh as the most polluted nation globally, a reduction from the previous year’s average of 83.30 (2019) and the previous year’s 97.10 (2018).
Groundwater contamination, air pollution, noise pollution, and solid waste generation are the country’s most significant environmental problems.
Dhaka is one of the world’s most polluted cities. Bangladesh’s brickmaking sector, which employs 1 million people and produces 23 billion bricks annually, is the country’s major source of air pollution. Brickmaking kilns burn wood or coal, resulting in a lot of smoke and dust.
The brickmaking business is likely to develop even more due to the rising demand for bricks, resulting in greater air pollution.
Pakistan is the world’s second-most polluted nation, with an average PM2.5 concentration of 59.0. For most of 2019, AQI measurements in Punjab were in the “near unhealthy” or “extremely unhealthy” range and even reached 484.
The increasing number of cars on Pakistan’s highways, the widespread destruction of trees, the smoke from brick kilns and steel mills, and the burning of waste contribute to the country’s increasing pollution.
It is hardly surprising that the Pakistani government is being accused by its citizenry of failing to adequately monitor or address the pollution situation.
The average PM2.5 concentration in India is 51.90, making it the third most polluted nation in the world. Twenty-one of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India. Every month that Kanpur’s medical college is open, it sees roughly 600 patients with respiratory illnesses.
Vehicles, burning coal and wood, dust storms, and forest fires contribute to India’s harmful pollution levels.
The air quality in Delhi, India’s capital area, is notoriously bad, resulting in airline cancellations, traffic accidents, school closings, and even the yellowing and greening of the Taj Mahal’s white marble walls.
The pollution particularly hard hits rural regions in India because of the prevalence of agricultural stubble burning and biofuels like wood and dung for cooking and heating.
Mongolia ranks as the world’s fourth-most polluted nation. The average concentration of PM2.5 in Mongolia is 46.60. Burning coal and other biofuels like wood or agricultural waste in stoves is the country’s most significant source of air pollution.
In the previous decade, respiratory infections have grown 270% in Mongolia’s capital, Ulan Bator.
Children who live in the city have 40% worse lung function than those in rural regions. Air pollution affects 70-90 percent of pregnant women who visit a family health clinic in Mongolia. Pneumonia and other respiratory disorders are now being identified in newborns as soon as two days old.
With an average PM2.5 level of 46.50, Afghanistan is the sixth most polluted nation in the world. In 2017, air pollution was more hazardous than the conflict in Afghanistan.
Around 26,000 people died that year due to illnesses linked to air pollution, whereas 3,483 died as a result of fighting.
Due to a lack of rainfall, irregular groundwater usage, and a lack of city infrastructure, over 80% of Afghanistan’s drinking water is contaminated. Food poisoning is often caused by a lack of access to safe drinking water.
Also See: Most Environmentally Friendly Countries 2022
Listed below are the 10 countries with the highest pollution levels:
- Bangladesh (83.3)
- Pakistan (65.81)
- Mongolia (62)
- Afghanistan (58.8)
- India (58.08)
- Indonesia (51.71)
- Bahrain (46.8)
- Nepal (44.46)
- Uzbekistan (41.2)
- Iraq (39.6)
|Country||Average PM2.5 (µg/m³)||2022 Population|
|United Arab Emirates||38.9400||10081.7850|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||34.5800||3249.3170|