Just Seven Countries Met WHO Air Quality Standards in 2023, Data Shows


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Swiss air quality monitoring company IQAir has released its sixth World Air Quality Report, detailing 2023’s most polluted countries and territories in the world.

In compiling the report, more than 30,000 monitoring stations in 134 nations, territories and regions were examined by IQAir scientists, a press release from IQAir said. Of these, 124 — 92.5 percent — exceeded the annual guideline set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

“Causing an estimated one in every nine deaths worldwide, air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to human health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is responsible for an estimated seven million premature deaths worldwide every year,” IQAir said.

Just seven countries met WHO’s annual PM2.5 guidelines — Australia, New Zealand, Estonia, Iceland, Finland, Grenada and Mauritius.


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Meanwhile, the most polluted countries last year were Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan and Burkina Faso.

“A clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a universal human right. In many parts of the world the lack of air quality data delays decisive action and perpetuates unnecessary human suffering. Air quality data saves lives. Where air quality is reported, action is taken, and air quality improves,” said Frank Hammes, IQAir Global CEO, in the press release.

The most underrepresented continent in the report was Africa, where one-third of the population does not have access to data on air quality. Just 24 of 54 countries on the continent had sufficient monitoring data, IQAir said, as CNN reported.

In Southeast Asia, almost every country saw PM2.5 concentrations rise, with transboundary haze and climate conditions affecting the region.

The planet’s ten most polluted cities in 2023 were all located in Central and South Asia. The four most polluted were in India, with Begusarai taking the top spot.

“We see that in every part of our lives that air pollution has an impact,” Hammes said, as reported by CNN. “And it typically, in some of the most polluted countries, is likely shaving off anywhere between three to six years of people’s lives. And then before that will lead to many years of suffering that are entirely preventable if there’s better air quality.”

In the United States, the most polluted city was Beloit, Wisconsin, while the most polluted major city was Columbus, Ohio, the report said.

On the flipside, the cleanest major U.S. city was Las Vegas.

Fine particulate matter has been linked to many serious health issues.

“Exposure to PM2.5 air pollution leads to and exacerbates numerous health conditions, including but not limited to asthma, cancer, stroke, and lung disease. Additionally, exposure to elevated levels of fine particles can impair cognitive development in children, lead to mental health issues, and complicate existing illnesses including diabetes,” IQAir said.

For the first time, the report found Canada to be North America’s most polluted country with 13 of the most polluted cities in the region located there.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, low-cost sensors were used to gather 70 percent of the air quality data collected in real-time.

“While the number of countries and regions with air quality monitoring has steadily increased over the past six years, there remain significant gaps in government-operated regulatory instrumentation in many parts of the world,” IQAir explained. “Low-cost air quality monitors, sponsored and hosted by citizen scientists, researchers, community advocates, and local organizations, have proven to be valuable tools to reduce gaps in air monitoring networks across the world.”

According to independent air quality monitors, there has been a disproportionate amount of exposure to harmful air among underrepresented and vulnerable groups. Gaps in the monitoring data in places where air quality is likely poor highlight the necessity of expanding global air quality monitoring coverage.

“IQAir’s annual report illustrates the international nature and inequitable consequences of the enduring air pollution crisis. Local, national, and international effort is urgently needed to monitor air quality in under-resourced places, manage the causes of transboundary haze, and cut our reliance on combustion as an energy source,” said Aidan Farrow, Greenpeace International senior air quality scientist, in the press release. “In 2023, air pollution remained a global health catastrophe. IQAir’s global data set provides an important reminder of the resulting injustices and the need to implement the many solutions that exist to this problem.”

The report pointed out that, by changing weather patterns that affect rainfall and wind, the climate crisis has a major influence on air pollution levels, as CNN reported. And as extreme heat events happen more frequently and become increasingly severe, it will lead to increased air pollution.

“We have such a strong overlap of what’s causing our climate crisis and what’s causing air pollution,” Hammes said, as reported by CNN. “Anything that we can do to reduce air pollution will be tremendously impactful in the long term also for improving our climate gas emissions, and vice versa.”

This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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