The global air quality crisis: where does your country stand?

There are only 7 countries in the world whose air is within the safety thresholds dictated by the World Health Organization (WHO) on PM2.5 fine particles. Here are the data from a new ranking

In an era where air pollution poses a significant threat to public health and the environment, recent data reveals a stark reality: only seven countries worldwide have managed to keep their levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) below the threshold set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The findings by IQAir: a closer look

Swiss air purifier company IQAir, known for its air quality reports, has once again brought attention to the global air pollution crisis. Despite previous controversies, including naming Milan as the world’s most polluted city, IQAir’s latest rankings offer a glimpse into the extent of air quality issues worldwide. The report analyzes data from 30,000 air monitoring stations across 7,812 locations in 134 countries, providing a comprehensive overview of the state of air pollution globally.

The report’s highlights

According to IQAir’s findings, only seven countries have achieved an annual PM2.5 average at or below 5 µg/m3, as recommended by the WHO. These nations include Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, Mauritius, and New Zealand. On the flip side, the five most polluted countries in 2023 were Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, and Burkina Faso, with Bangladesh’s annual PM2.5 average reaching a staggering 79.9 µg/m3, fifteen times higher than the WHO guideline.

The report underscores a troubling fact: 124 out of 134 countries, representing 92.5% of the total, have exceeded the WHO’s recommended limits for PM2.5, illustrating the widespread nature of air pollution.

the global air quality crisis


Air pollution across the continents

Asia remains the epicenter of air pollution, housing the ten most polluted cities in the world. North America has not been spared either, with Canada experiencing devastating wildfires, making it the most polluted country in the region according to the report.

Europe’s mixed bag

Europe presents a varied landscape of air quality. Iceland emerges as the continent’s least polluted country, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia have shown significant improvements. Montenegro, however, has seen the largest increase in PM2.5 concentrations.

Europe in 2023: an overview

Despite the grim findings, many European countries remain close to the WHO thresholds, with some managing to keep their PM2.5 levels at most double the recommended limit. However, only Iceland, Estonia, and Finland have stayed below the WHO’s guideline, showcasing the urgent need for concerted efforts to tackle air pollution across the continent and beyond.

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