Bloomberg recently reported that air pollution kills far more people in the world than COVID-19 does. And that math may well worsen. It puts annual air pollution caused deaths at 10 million. Of course, there are barriers, particularly to data gathering in some nations, that make it impossible for accurate estimates, but the point is made.
One thing is for certain. The world’s air becomes more polluted by the year. Much of this is caused by greenhouse gases, which in turn are primarily carbon dioxide. Climate data show that there is no drop-off in these causes, and in many nations, their production has worsened.
To identify the city with the worst air pollution in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed air quality data for 95 of the most polluted cities from the IQAir 2021 World Air Quality Report. Data was pulled on April 8, 2022 at 10:30 a.m. Cities were ranked by PM2.5 concentrations in micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3). PM2.5 is defined as particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or smaller in diameter — or about 36 times smaller than a grain of fine beach sand. Population figures for 2022 come from World Population Review.
Vehicles are responsible for a full 75% of all volatile organic compounds and 25% of particulate matter in urban air pollution, with the greatest impact in poorer countries where older cars emit dirtier exhaust. Domestic use of fossil fuels for cooking, heating, and light is another major source of pollution, with half the world’s population burning coal, wood, or charcoal in inefficient stoves, and 1.2 billion people burning kerosene for lighting.
Heavily industrialized cities suffer from the worst quality air, with smokestacks emitting not just conventional pollutants, like particulates, but also a plethora of chemicals, many of them highly toxic. And feeding these industries, as well as commerce and residences, are power generators, fueled by highly polluting coal, oil, and gas, where alternative clean energy has not made a significant showing.
Denver has the best quality air based on the Air quality ranking on April 22, 2022. It had a score of zero.
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