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
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)
2. Delhi, India (91 µg/m3)
3. Dhaka, Bangladesh (85 µg/m3)
4. Ghaziabad, India (85 µg/m3)
5. Muzaffarnagar, India (84 µg/m3)
6. Peshawar, Pakistan (84 µg/m3)
7. Aguascalientes, Mexico (80 µg/m3)
8. Hapur, India (76 µg/m3)
9. Lucknow, India (64 µg/m3)
10. Patna, India (60 µg/m3)
11. Dammam, Saudi Arabia (53 µg/m3)
12. Ulan Bator, Mongolia (52 µg/m3)
13. Chandigarh, India (51 µg/m3)
14. Baghdad, Iraq (48 µg/m3)
15. Jaipur, India (48 µg/m3)
16. Kolkata, India (48 µg/m3)
17. Kampala, Uganda (48 µg/m3)
18. Urumqi, China (47 µg/m3)
19. Xinxiang, China (47 µg/m3)
20. Manama, Bahrain (47 µg/m3)
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)
25. Anyang, China (45 µg/m3)
Read More: The 25 Least Polluted Cities in the World?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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