20 Cities With the Worst Air Quality in the World

Varanasi, North India

It’s getting more difficult to find cities with clean air to breathe. With the number of automobiles on the road, jets in the air, and factories pumping pollutants into the environment, our bigger cities are becoming places which foster a host of respiratory and other ailments. In some cities, vulnerable citizens are even forced to wear face masks to prevent asthma attacks. Even though there is currently a global effort to cut down on the carbon, methane, and other toxic emissions going into the air, the epidemic of polluted cities is spreading and the World Health Organization has even ranked our cities in accordance with the hazard levels in the air. Here are the 20 worst cities with the worst air quality in the world, according to 2019 statistics.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

20. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

The city of Ulaanbaatar, in Mongolia’s air quality, is monitored on a constant basis. The population is 1.4 million and it is ranked as having the 20th worst air quality in the world. When measured in annual pollution rates, it averages 196.9 micrograms of MP10 pollution per cubic meter, and 92.2 micrograms of PM2.5 pollution per cubic meter. The city has climbed up one position on the list since 2018, which means that the problem is not getting any better, but rather, it is intensifying.

Baoding, North China

19. Baoding, North China

Baoding which is located in North China has a population of 1.1 million people. The PM2.5 pollution rates are 93.0 micrograms per cubic meter with an annual average of 147.0 micrograms of MP10 pollution per cubic meter. Since the ranking in 2016, the air quality in Baoding has not improved, but it has not gotten any worse either. It’s holding its own in maintaining a steady level of unhealthy air.

Ali Subah Al Salem, Kuwait

18. Ali Subah Al Salem, Kuwait

This Kuwaiti city has a smaller population of just 42,000, but it is the 18th worst to live in with regards to air quality. Testing reveals tht the annual MP2.5 pollution is at 93.8 micrograms on average, with the PM10 pollution at 198.1 micrograms. The more recent averages move the country of Kuwait from having a city ranked as the 44th worst to the 18th, which tells us that there is a seriously worsening issue with air quality that must be addressed in the near future.

Narayangonj, Bangladesh

17. Narayangonj, Bangladesh

Narayangonj has a large population of 543,000. The average PM2.5 pollution per year is at 94.2 micrograms per cubic meter. The PM10 pollution readings for this year have averaged 205.0 micrograms, In 2015, the city was ranked as the 18th worst city in the world for its poor air quality, so the current ranking shows that they are making some small improvements and moving down on the list, but more needs to be done for the sake of the citizens.

Jodhpur, Jodhpur, West IndiaWest India

16. Jodhpur, West India

Jodhpur is a large city in West India with a population of 1.3 million people. The annual PM2.5 pollution reading per cubic meter averages 97.8 micrograms with the PM10 pollution at 180.2 micrograms per cubic meter. Jodhpur was previously number 17 in 2016, and this shows that the air quality is worsening, as they have climbed up one position.

Patiala, North India

15. Patiala, North India

Patiala has a population of 510,000. It averages a PM2.5 pollution reading of 101.2 micrograms per cubic meter annually, with a PM10 pollution reading of 183.7 micrograms per cubic meter. In 2016, it was ranked as the 16th worst city for air quality, and in just three years, it has jumped up one position in rankings, which shows that the air quality has declined yet further.

Delta Region, Egypt

14. Delta Region, Egypt

The population in the Delta Region of Egypt is 7.9 million persons. The annual PM2.5 pollution reading per cubic meter is 102.2 on average. The PM10 pollution statistics per cubic meter averages 249.0 micrograms annually. This is the first year that the region has been included in the listing of the worst places for air quality. There are high concentrations of atmospheric pollutants which collectively referred to as a “Black Cloud” cover, attributed to local emissions from vehicle emissions, farmers burning their crops and other local emissions from commercial businesses.

Jaipur, West India

13. Jaipur, West India

Jaipur has a population of 3.5 million people. The annual PM2.5 pollution rates are at 104.6 micrograms per cubic meter, with the PM10 pollution figures at 192.6 micrograms per cubic meter on average. Jaipur was previously number fourteen on the cities with the worst air list for 2016, showing that it’s joining nearby larger cities in the issue of worsening air quality over time.

Greater Cairo, Egypt

12. Greater Cairo, Egypt

The population in Greater Cairo is 18.8 million. This area is two positions worse than the neighboring Delta Region of the country with an average PM2.5 pollution reading of 116.6 micrograms per cubic meter on average within a year’s time. The PM10 pollution statistics show this type of air contamination is at 284.0 micrograms per cubic meter. As with the Delta Region, the “Black Cloud” pollution is a dominant feature of the issues, and it shares the same contributing factors to the problem.

Gurgaon, North India

11. Gurgaon, North India

The population of Gurgaon, North India is 902,000. This city has an average annual PM2.5 reading of 119.6 micrograms per cubic meter with the PM10 at 124.3 micrograms per cubic meter. This city was previously ranked as number 10 in 2016, which shows that it is moving lower on the list of cities with the highest amount of air pollution.

Muzaffarpur, East India

10. Muzaffarpur, East India

The population of Muzaffarpur is 439,000. This city has an average PM2.5 measurement of 120.0 micrograms per cubic meter per year with a PM10 pollution reading of 220.9 micrograms per cubic meter on average. In 2016, Muzaffarpur was ranked as the 10th worst city for air pollution and it has moved down one place on the list, not showing significant improvement in its air quality problem.

Agra, North India

9. Agra, North India

The population in Agra is a massive 2 million persons. The annual PM2.5 pollution readings average 131.4 micrograms with the PM10 readings at 194.5 micrograms per cubic meter. It joins neighboring large cities in moving down one position, but the air quality is not improving, but rather, other cities are becoming worse.

Lucknow, North India

8. Lucknow, North India

The population in Lucknow is 3.2 million personal The city’s average annual PM2.5 pollution reading is 138.4 micrograms per cubic meter wit a PM10 stat of 254.9 micrograms per cubic meter. There has been a slight drop in the PM10 reading with the PM2.5 rising slightly. This city was ranked with the seventh-worst air quality readings in 2016.

Delhi, North India

7. Delhi, North India

There are 25.7 million people in Delhi, North India. The average PM2.5 pollution averages 143.1 micrograms per cubic meter with a PM10 of 292.3 micrograms per cubic meter. Since 2016, the city has gone down one position, but the readings have increased slightly for both PM2.5 and PM10 readings, showing that the air quality is still in a decline.

Patiala, North India

6. Patna, East India

There are 2.2 million people inhabiting the city of Patna in East India The average PM2.5 pollution readings average 144.3 micrograms per cubic meter with PM10 pollution at 265.7 micrograms per cubic meter. 6. Patna, East India • Population: 2.2 million • Average annual PM2.5 pollutions per cubic meter: 144.3 micrograms • Average annual PM10 pollution per cubic meter: 265.7 micrograms. The PM2.5 has risen slightly since 2016 and the PM10 pollution readings are down from the previous reading of 266 in 2016.

Varanasi, North India

5. Varanasi, North India

Varanasi has a population of 1.5 million persons. The annual PM2.5 pollution reading averages 146.3 micrograms per cubic meter with the PM10 pollution readings averaging 260.1 micrograms per cubic meter. There has been a slight increase in both types of air pollution over the past three years, which shows that not enough is being done to cut down on harmful emissions in the city.

Gaya, East India

4. Gaya, East India

The population in Gaya is 508,000 persons. The city has an average annual PM2.5 pollution reading of 149.1 micrograms per cubic meter. The PM10 reading averages 274.6 micrograms per cubic meter. The PM2.5 pollution is up by 0.1 micrograms while the PM10 figures are down by 0.4, showing a slight improvement over the past three years, but nothing of great significance.

Pasakha, Bhutan

3. Pasakha, Bhutan

The population of Pasakha, Butan is 20,000, making it one of the smallest cities with the highest rates of pollutants in the air. As of 2019, the average annual PM2.5 came in at 149.9 micrograms per cubic meter with the PM10 pollution readings at 275.0 micrograms per cubic meter. Pasakha was not included in the 2016 listing of the cities with the worst air pollution.

Faridabad, North India

2. Faridabad, North India

The population in Faridabad, North India is 1.8 million persons. Their average annual PM2.5 pollution reading is 171.5 micrograms per cubic meter with a PM10 reading of 315.0 micrograms per cubic meter. This is a frightening figure and since 2016, the PM2.5 figure has climbed 0.5 micrograms while the PM10 average has decreased slightly by 0.1 micrograms.

Kanpur, North India

1. Kanpur, North India

The population of Kanpur, North India is 2.0 million persons. The city has an average annual PM2.5 pollution reading of 173 micrograms per cubic meter. The PM10 annual average is 318.5 micrograms per cubic meter. The PM2.5 pollution levels have remained the same while the PM10 readings have decreased by 0.5 micrograms, showing that there has been a slight improvement, but it remains the city with the worst air quality throughout the entire world.

How these cities were ranked

The World Health Organization has maintained statistics of constant monitoring of air quality and compiled a listing of the cities ranked in accordance with the number of pollution particles present in the air per cubic meter for two types of pollution, notated as PM2.5 pollution and PM10 pollution. Comparisons with statistics maintained from as far back as 2015/2016 show changes in air quality over the past three years and the inclusion of new cities with worsening air quality. Concentrations of these pollutants are measured and the levels are averaged over a time period of one year. The most common particles found in the air include concentrations of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and nitrogen oxides.

What does this tell us about the condition of the environment?

What we can take away from this report is that there is a serious problem with the worst air pollution happening in South Asia, in particular, in the country of India. We’re seeing other countries such as Egypt weighing in with increasingly poor air quality, and although some cities are making slight improvements, it’s not enough to take them off the list. High populations, vehicle emissions, fumes and releases from factories, the use of aerosols and methane emissions are among the contributing factors to the problem. These are the worst cities, and although the problem is not as pronounced, the air in Southeast Asia is also highly polluted, but China is taking measures to cut down on air pollution. By comparison, the United States and Canada have relatively good air quality, but recent wildfires have raised the level of pollutants in the air that the populations are breathing in. There is little that can be done to alter the natural catastrophes brought about by changing climate conditions, hastening the incidence of wildfires, but we can cut down on the burning of fossil fuels. This, in turn, may help to decrease the effects upon the climate.


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