Air pollution constitutes the most pressing environmental health risk facing our global population. It is estimated to contribute toward 7 million premature deaths a year, while 92% of the world’s population are estimated to breathe toxic air quality (WHO, 2016). In less developed countries, 98% of children under five breathe toxic air.
As a result, air pollution is the main cause of death for children under the age of 15, killing 600,000 every year (WHO, 2018). In financial terms, premature deaths due to air pollution cost about $5 trillion in welfare losses worldwide (The World Bank, 2016).
This report presents PM2.5 data made publicly available during 2019, in order to highlight the state of particulate pollution around the world and raise awareness about public access to air quality data. The majority of this data has been published in real-time or near real-time, by governmental sources, as well as independently operated and validated non-governmental air quality monitors.
Regionally, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Western Asia carry the highest burden of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution overall, with only 6 of 355 cities included meeting WHO annual targets in these areas collectively. Cities within these regions also rank highly in the top of the global city ranking. Of the world’s top 30 most polluted cities during 2019, 21 are located in India, 27 in South Asia, and all the top 30 cities are within greater Asia.
Using a weighted population average, Bangladesh emerges as the most polluted country for PM2.5 exposure, based on available data. Pakistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan and India follow behind respectively, deviating from one another by less than 10%. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the highest ranking country in Europe for PM2.5 pollution, featuring as the 14th most polluted country globally, with only 4μg/m³ less than China’s national PM2.5 weighted average.
Publishing real-time monitoring data is essential to tackle the urgent issue of air pollution. What is not measured cannot be managed, and sharing live data enables populations to respond quickly and safeguard their health. 2019 saw a significant increase in air quality monitoring coverage, with the number of monitoring stations included in this report increasing by more than 200% since the year prior.
These gains are due both to expanded or new governmental monitoring networks, as well as sensor contributions from non-governmental organizations, private industry and individuals. Still, vast populations around the world lack access to air quality information. Often these areas are estimated to have some of the world’s most severe air pollution, putting the health of huge populations at risk. More monitoring data is needed to bridge the information gap, and better tackle air pollution globally.
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(Credits: Report issued by IQ Air)