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These 7 Countries Are the Only Ones That Meet WHO Air Quality Standard

Only seven countries are meeting an inertnational air quality standard set by the World Health Organization, according to a new report.
Only seven countries meet the international air quality standard set by the World Health Organization, according to a new report. Credit: United Nations Photo. CC BY 2.0/flickr

According to a new report, only seven countries meet the international air quality standard, while dangerous levels of air pollution are on the rise in certain areas due to both an uptick in economic activity and the toxic impact of wildfire smoke.

Of 134 countries and regions surveyed in the 6th Annual World Air Quality Report by IQAir, just seven—Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Australia, Iceland, Mauritius, and New Zealand—meet the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline limit for miniscule airborne particles called PM2.5 let off by cars, trucks, and industrial processes.

Worst countries in terms of air quality

The highest emitter was Bangladesh, which was responsible for 79.9 micrograms per meter cubed—more than fifteen times higher than the WHO PM2.5 annual guideline. Bangladesh is closely followed by Pakistan (73.7 micrograms), India (54.4 micrograms), Tajikistan (49.0 micrograms), and Burkina Faso with 46.6 micrograms.

The report states that Africa remains the most underrepresented continent with a third of the population still lacking access to air quality data. Additionally, climate conditions and transboundary haze were major factors in Southeast Asia, where PM2.5 concentrations rose in nearly every country.

Furthermore, the findings show that the region of Central and South Asia was home to the top ten most polluted cities in the worldwith Begusarai, India being the most polluted metropolitan area of 2023. India was home to the four most polluted cities in the world.

The most polluted major US city, according to the report, was Columbus, Ohio, while Beloit, Wisconsin was identified as the most polluted city in the country overall. Las Vegas, Nevada was the cleanest major city in the US.

While the number of countries and regions with air quality monitoring has steadily increased over the past six years, there remain significant gaps in government-operated regulatory instrumentation in many parts of the world. Low-cost air quality monitors, sponsored and hosted by citizen scientists, researchers, community advocates, and local organizations, have proven to be valuable tools to reduce gaps in air monitoring networks across the world.

“A clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a universal human right. In many parts of the world the lack of air quality data delays decisive action and perpetuates unnecessary human suffering. Air quality data saves lives. Where air quality is reported, action is taken, and air quality improves,” states Frank Hammes, Global CEO, IQAir.

Where does Greece stand in the air quality report?

Panoramic view of Athens
Athens, Greece. Credit: Matt Kieffe / CC-BY-SA-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Taking into account population size, the 2023 average PM2.5 concentration for Greece (17.4 micrograms per meter cubed), puts the country in fiftieth place. This means that out of the 134 nations included, Greece emits the fiftieth highest level of these particulates.

Under the capital city categorization of the report Athens also ranked fiftieth among 114 listed, with 16.7 micrograms of PM2.5 per meter cubed.

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