Most Polluted Cities in the World 2023

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the air and environment causing adverse effects. Pollution can make the land, air, and water unsafe and unsuitable for use. When people think of pollution, they often think of littering, coal, or fossil fuels being burned; however, things such as sound, light, and temperature are also considered to be pollution when they are artificially introduced into an environment.

According to Pure Earth, toxic pollution is among the leading risk factors for non-communicable diseases globally. Non-communicable diseases account for 72% of all deaths, 16% of which toxic pollution is responsible for. Pollution is accountable for 22% of all cardiovascular disease, 25% of stroke deaths, 40% of deaths from lung cancer, and 53% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In low- and middle-income countries, pollution is the predominant risk factor for NCD deaths.

In the United States, 44% of streams, 64% of lakes, and 30% of the bay and estuarine areas are not clean enough for swimming or fishing, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the United Nations, 783 million people around the world do not have access to clean water and 2.5 billion people do not have proper sanitation.

Pollution negatively impacts humans, wildlife, marine life, climate, and more. Air pollution is measured by air-quality monitoring devices that track levels of dangerous particulates. The most harmful of these is called PM2.5, which are tiny enough to enter the bloodstream through the lungs and can cause death. Only 10 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter are deemed safe by the World Health Organization.

IQAir is a Swiss air technology company that specializes in developing air quality monitoring and protection against airborne pollutants. IQAir operates the largest free real-time air quality information platform, providing up-to-date air quality information for just about any location in the world.

IQAir released their 2019 report of the most polluted cities in the world based on average PM2.5 concentration.

The most polluted cities in the world are:

  1. Ghaziabad, India
  2. Hotan, China
  3. Gujranwala, Pakistan
  4. Faisalabad, Pakistan
  5. Delhi, India
  6. Noida, India
  7. Gurugram, India
  8. Raiwind, Pakistan
  9. Greater Noida, India
  10. Bandhwari, India

Of the 10 most polluted cities in the world, six are located in India. More than 4 in 10 Indians are exposed to 5 times the safe limit of particulate matter in the air they breathe. Air pollution contributes to more than 2 million premature Indians deaths every year.

Ghaziabad is the most polluted city in the world with an average air quality index of 110.2, putting it in the “unhealthy” air quality category for 2019. This is, however, an improvement from 2017 and 2018, where the average was 144.6 and 135.2 respectively. The Central Pollution Control Board has identified traffic congestion and dust to be the main contributors to rising air pollution in Ghaziabad.

Hotan, China, is the second-most polluted city with an average AQI of 110.1, just below Ghaziabad. Hotan’s 2019 average air quality is an improvement from 2018 when it was 116, but higher than its 2017 average of 91.9. Pollution in Hotan is largely attributed to the rapid growth of industry and frequent sandstorms.

The reluctance of governments around the world to address the pollution crisis is attributed to their unwillingness to implement policies that tackle large polluters. Doing so would negatively impact the automotive industry, farmers, construction companies, and more. Policymakers must strike a balance to save the health of their citizens.

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Most Polluted Cities in the World 2023