Air pollution is considered to be extreme environmental health hazard to humankind, becoming a reason for over six million deaths a year and an economic cost that is equal to over $8 trillion dollars. This analysis is according to the World Air Quality Report 2022 released on Tuesday by IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company. The analysis revealed that out of a surveyed 131 countries, regions and territories, only 13 resulted in meeting World Health Organization air guidelines of annual PM2.5 concentrations at or below 5 μg/m3 in 2022, many of which were in Oceania.
The infographic used here shows how significantly air quality varies globally, with cities such as Pakistan’s Lahore (97.4 μg of PM2.5 particles per m3) and India’s Delhi (92.6) both surpassed WHO guidelines more than 10 times. At the other end of the spectrum lie cities such as Reykjavik in Iceland (3.3) and Tallinn in Estonia (4.8) which are among the few that meet the guidelines.
Air pollution impacts communities that are already at risk particularly hard, with more than 90 percent of pollution related deaths occurring in low-income and middle-income countries, according to the report. Africa, as well as Central and South Asia were overrepresented for having the highest annual average PM2.5 concentrations weighted by population. This is even including the huge discrepancies in data availability between countries, with only 19 out of 54 African countries having had sufficient data to be of use in the paper.
IQAir defines PM2.5 concentration as the amount of fine particulate aerosol particles up to 2.5 microns in diameter. It is one of six major air pollutants commonly used in the classification of air quality and broadly considered as the most destructive, in terms of its prevalence in the environment and the effects it has on health. The latter includes causing and provoking health conditions such as asthma, cancer, lung illness, heart disease and premature mortality.
Infographic by: statista