The 10 Countries in The World with The Highest Levels of Air Pollution

Ten Countries in The World with The Highest Levels of Air Pollution

Air pollution is becoming a global health issue according to the World Health Organization. Tests conducted show that there is good reason for concern about the quality of the air we all breathe.


The report generated by the WHO in 2014 includes data gathered on air pollution in 1600 cities, across 19 countries world-wide. The indicators used include instruments of measurement called PM10 and PM2.5. The PM2.5 is the best tool for measuring hazards to humans and animals, because it assesses the amount of fine particles of pollution in the air which are 2.5 micrometers or less. How much is safe? The answer is that there is no safe amount of pollution without some risk resulting to health. Any pollution that is inhaled, has the potential to circulate through the respiratory system and may cause illness and disease.

What Types of Contaminants Have Been Found?

The most predominant types of pollution measured are mold, pollen, smoke and dirt. Sensitive individuals may become more prone to attacks of asthma and allergic reactions when exposed to these elements. In the short term, breathing may become impaired. In the long term, development of debilitating respiratory diseases and infections can occur too.

The Most Polluted Countries in The World

The information gathered here, has been used to rank the countries with the most unhealthy air quality. They are ranked in order of hazard to humans and animals (with 1 being the worst case). These are the countries that have showed the highest concentrations of air pollutants, out of the 19 countries that were tested.

1. Pakistan

Number one on the list of the most polluted countries in the world, Pakistan has a population of 180 million people. There are 8,000 diagnoses annually of bronchitis, 80,000 respiratory related hospital admissions and approximately 5 million cases of children aged five and under diagnosed with breathing problems. The PM2.5 was last measured at 101ug/M3, the highest in the world.

2. Qatar

The population of this country is just 2 million, but the PM2.5 reading is a staggering 92 ug/m3. This is due to the high amount of air traffic in and out of Qatar and the massive levels of construction that are currently taking place.

3. Afghanistan

With a population of 30 million people, Afghanistan is third on the list. PM2.5 levels are 79 ug/m3. Traffic congestion, large amounts of dust, the use of diesel generators and burning plastics and rubber tires, contribute to their massive air pollution issues. It is estimated that there were 3,000 air pollution related deaths in Afghanistan in 2013.

4. Bangladesh

155 million people reside in this region and they breathe in air that has a concentration of 79 ug/m3 in PM2.5 measurements. The quality of air has declined rapidly, at the rate of a 60% fall in the last decade.

5. Iran

A total of 76 million is the population of Iran. The PM2.5 readings are 76 ug/m3 for the fifth worst air quality in the world. The contaminants found in this area include rubber, asbestos, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen. It is largely due to poor governmental regulations on emissions. Poor quality gasoline, high traffic congestion and open fires are the biggest contributing factors.

6. Egypt

The once pristine pyramids of Egypt are enshrined in a curtain of smog. The MP2.5 measurements in the city of Cairo measure 74 ug/M3 for a rate that is 20 times above acceptable levels for human health. Large concentrations of factories, power plants, automobile traffic and open fires burning wood and coal for fuel are contributors to the problem.

7. Mongolia

The population of 2.7 million people is not large for a country of this size. However, common open fires during cold winters and high concentrations of automobile traffic, have taken their toll on the quality of the air in the region. Coal is the main source of heat for the majority of residents. The emissions produced fill the air with unhealthy particles of contaminants measuring 64 ug/M3.

8. United Arab Emirates

With a population of 9 million people, this country is the wealthiest in the world, yet comes in as the 8th highest with regard to air pollution. Heavy traffic congestion is the major contributing factor, followed by massive construction efforts and dust particles. The PM2.5 reading is 61 ug/M3. Officials in Dubai recognize the severity of the problem and have recently begun taking measures to decrease the amount of automobile traffic to ease this problem.

9. India

The population of India is among the most dense on the planet, with an estimated 1.2 people residing there. India is filled with factories churning out dangerous levels of industrial emissions, high levels of automobile traffic and open fires, which fill the air with high concentrations of pollution particles measuring 59 ug/M3.

India is also among the top 3 carbon dioxide producing countries around the world.

10. Bahrain

The population of Bahrain is small at 1.3 million, but the industrial climate and lack of emissions control contributes to unhealthy air quality. the PM2.5 assessment for Bahrain is at 57 ug/M3. In addition to the industrial emissions, smoke, dust and byproducts from energy production add to pollutants daily.

The World Health Organization has provided us with valuable information that must be used to identify the sources of air quality contamination for curbing the vast and wide reaching problem of air pollution. It is a global concern that requires the participation and dedication of each nation, in order to bring the quality of the air that we all breathe into healthier and more acceptable levels.

Attention: We have listed these countries based on data from 2014, the situation in some countries may already have changed since then. This article is just for a general reference and should not be used as a professional resource.

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