25 Most Polluted Cities in the World (2022 Rankings)

Air pollution is one of the leading causes of death around the world. But which cities and countries are the most polluted in the world? Smart Air analyzed 2021 and 2022 air pollution data for 529 major cities from 88 countries around the world to create the 2022 updated ranking of the “25 Most Polluted Cities in the World”.

Watch: Run Down of Top 5 Most Polluted Cities in the World
Top 5 Most Polluted Cities in the World (2020 Rankings)

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Scroll down below for the full rundown of the world’s most polluted cities, which countries they’re in, and their annual PM2.5 levels. The annual average PM2.5 in microns (µg/m3) is also given. For reference, the WHO recommended annual limit is 5 microns.

Rankings: 25 Most Polluted Cities in the World in 2022

The rankings for the most polluted cities in the world are based on PM2.5 air pollution data from the 12 months prior to the publication date.

1. Lahore, Pakistan (108 µg/m3)

Lahore air pollution ranked worst in the world in 2021

2. Delhi, India (91 µg/m3)

Old Delhi air pollution ranked 3rd worst in the world in 2021

3. Dhaka, Bangladesh (85 µg/m3)

Dhaka air pollution ranked 8th worst in the world in 2021

4. Ghaziabad, India (85 µg/m3)

Ghaziabad air pollution ranked 2nd worst in the world in 2021

5. Muzaffarnagar, India (84 µg/m3)

Muzaffarnaga air pollution ranked 7th worst in the world in 2021

6. Peshawar, Pakistan (84 µg/m3)

Peshawar air pollution ranked 9th worst in the world in 2021

7. Aguascalientes, Mexico (80 µg/m3)

Aguascalientes air pollution ranked 4th worst in the world in 2021

8. Hapur, India (76 µg/m3)

Hapur air pollution ranked 10th worst in the world in 2021

9. Lucknow, India (64 µg/m3)

Lucknow air pollution ranked 6th worst in the world in 2021

10. Patna, India (60 µg/m3)

Patna air pollution ranked 11th worst in the world in 2021

11. Dammam, Saudi Arabia (53 µg/m3)

Dammam air pollution ranked 23rd worst in the world in 2021

12. Ulan Bator, Mongolia (52 µg/m3)

13. Chandigarh, India (51 µg/m3)

Chandigarh air pollution ranked 14th worst in the world in 2021

14. Baghdad, Iraq (48 µg/m3)

Baghdad air pollution ranked 19th worst in the world in 2021

15. Jaipur, India (48 µg/m3)

Jaipur air pollution ranked 15th worst in the world in 2021

16. Kolkata, India (48 µg/m3)

Kolkata air pollution ranked 20th worst in the world in 2021

17. Kampala, Uganda (48 µg/m3)

Kampala air pollution ranked 12th worst in the world in 2021

18. Urumqi, China (47 µg/m3)

19. Xinxiang, China (47 µg/m3)

20. Manama, Bahrain (47 µg/m3)

Manama air pollution ranked 21st worst in the world in 2021

21. Xuchang, China (46 µg/m3)

22. Pokhara, Nepal (46 µg/m3)

23. Xi’an, China (46 µg/m3)

24. Dushanbe, Tajikistan (45 µg/m3)

Dushanbe air pollution ranked 18th worst in the world in 2021

25. Anyang, China (45 µg/m3)

Read More: The 25 Least Polluted Cities in the World?

Analysis

Of the 25 most polluted cities in the world, 9 were located in India, 5 in China, and 2 in Pakistan. The most polluted city in the world remained in Pakistan, with Lahore averaging 108 micrograms of PM2.5.

Five Chinese cities joined the list of worst polluted cities in this 2022 update. This is after the last rankings 6 months ago when China was able to remain completely off the list. The number of Indian cities on the top 25 list decreased from 12 to 10.

Read More: Did Pollution in China’s Major Cities Increased in 2021?

Mongolia was a notable climber in the rankings. After never appearing in the rankings, Ulan Bator in Mongolia jumped to the 13th most polluted city in the world.

All of the ranked cities had average air quality many times above the WHO recommended healthy limit. Many of the cities with the worst air quality are located in similar geographical areas on the globe. Other countries featured on the list in this 2022 update include Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Mexico, Mongolia, and Uganda.

Countries that were on the list in the last 2021 update but fell off in 2022 include Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Mali.

Data bias

Some readers may note that only one city in Africa – Kampala in Uganda– made the list. This is after Bamako in Mali dropped off the list in 2022. No cities or countries in South America were on the list. This does not mean that these cities aren’t polluted. Africa and South America lack air pollution reporting tools, so it is difficult to know the pollution levels on-the-ground in many of these cities.

The fact that so many Indian cities are featured on the list is a testament to the fact that they have large and wide air pollution monitoring networks set up to detect pollution levels.

Air Pollution Heat Map Paints a Clearer Picture

Below is a pollution heat map from the WHO. WHO research shows that over 99% of people in the world are breathing unsafe air with high air pollution levels.

Global Air Pollution Map
Image: WHO

How Air Pollution Was Measured to Find Most Polluted Cities in World

The above rankings of the 2022 most polluted cities in the world were ranked based on their average PM2.5 pollution levels from the 12 months prior to the publication date. 

These small pollutants are under 2.5 micrograms in width and are considered to be one of the more dangerous pollutants due to their ability to enter deep into the lungs and bloodstream.

Open Data

The raw PM2.5 AQI 2022 world pollution data used for the rankings of the world’s worst polluted cities are openly available to download from aqicn.org.


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