A user on Quora asked recently how bad the air pollution in Nepal is. Nepal has glorious mountains and shining temples. But how is the air?
I checked the World Health Organization’s global PM2.5 database. According to that database, Kathmandu’s PM2.5 particulate pollution averaged 49 micrograms/m3 in 2013:
That’s just about double the WHO’s 24-hour limit of 25 micrograms. That means, on average, the air has dangerous levels of tiny particles. I’d guess winter heating brings along days that are easily 5 times that high or more.
How Does Kathmandu Compare to Other Major Cities?
Forty-nine micrograms is pretty bad, but Kathmandu is lower than Delhi and Beijing:
Yet “better than Delhi” isn’t much of a prize. Kathmandu is still far from the levels of US cities like New York, which made it just under the WHO’s stricter annual limit.
Bottom line: Kathmandu’s air pollution isn’t the worst in the neighborhood, but it is far above safe limits.
If I lived in Kathmandu, I’d watch the AQI from the US Embassy, carry a mask, and purify my air at home.
Breathe Safe in Nepal
Based on this data, and after getting emails from air-breathers-in-need in Nepal, I decided to set up Smart Air Nepal with the help of Shishir, a dedicated local. We’re shipping the Original DIY, Cannon, HEPA filters, and carbon filters in Nepal.
Breathe safe, Nepal!
Thomas is a new Assistant Professor of Behavior Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the founder of, a social enterprise to help people in China breathe clean air without shelling out thousands of dollars for expensive purifiers.