25 Most Polluted Cities in the World

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

25. Zhengzhou, China
> Population: 4.5 million
> Average PM2.5 pollution per cubic meter: 86 micrograms
> Average PM10 pollution per cubic meter: 171 micrograms

Zhengzhou is one of the largest manufacturing centers in China. The Henan Province capital is famously home to a massive quarter-million worker Foxconn manufacturing center, among other manufacturers. More than one in every 10 smartphones in the world are built in Zhengzhou. Not surprisingly, the industrial hub is also one of the most polluted cities on earth.

Source: Sven Dirks, Wien / Wikimedia Commons

24. Kabul, Afghanistan
> Population: 4.8 million
> Average PM2.5 pollution per cubic meter: 86 micrograms
> Average PM10 pollution per cubic meter: 260 micrograms

The majority of the world’s most polluted cities are in Asia, and Kabul, Afghanistan, is among them. The air is severely polluted with an average concentration of 86 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air, well above the World Health Organization standard of 10 micrograms.

Kabul’s pollution is partially linked to inadequate infrastructure. According to some estimates, only about one in every 50 homes in the capital city are connected to a sewage system, leaving most household waste to flow and often dry in the streets — much of it ultimately turning into harmful dust. Adding to the problem, many in the country burn animal dung to heat their homes.

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23. Tianjin, China
> Population: 11.6 million
> Average PM2.5 pollution per cubic meter: 87 micrograms
> Average PM10 pollution per cubic meter: 150 micrograms

Located along the coast of the Yellow Sea, TianJin is one of 10 cities in China to rank among the most polluted in the world. The average level of concentration of harmful PM2.5 in the city is 87 micrograms per cubic meter of air, nearly five times the concentration nearly five times the concentration even in the most polluted American cities.

Polluted cities are often heavily populated, and TianJin is no exception. Home to an estimated 11.6 million, it is nearly twice as large as the most populated American city, yet far from the most populated in China.

Source: chuyu / iStock

22. Cangzhou, China
> Population: 537,000
> Average PM2.5 pollution per cubic meter: 88 micrograms
> Average PM10 pollution per cubic meter: 133 micrograms

Like other polluted Chinese cities in the Hebei province, Cangzhou is an industrial center, home to manufacturers of chemicals, electrical appliances, textiles, and hardware machinery. Cangzhou’s air is severely polluted with an average concentration of 88 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air, well above the World Health Organization standard of 10 micrograms. Fumes from factories likely account for much of the city’s air pollution problems.

Source: Greg / Wikimedia Commons

21. Karachi, Pakistan
> Population: 17.1 million
> Average PM2.5 pollution per cubic meter: 88 micrograms
> Average PM10 pollution per cubic meter: 290 micrograms

Home to an estimated 17.1 million, Karachi is the most populated city in Pakistan. It is also one of the most polluted. The average annual concentration of PM2.5 in the city is 88 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Largely the product of industrial emissions, personal vehicle emissions, and burning garbage, the high pollution in Karachi has been linked to increasing incidences in the city of certain respiratory and cardiac diseases.