Top 10 Worst Cities for Air Pollution in the World

Worst Cities for Air Pollution

Breathing. Not really something you think about unless you live in a highly polluted area. For those living in the US, away from the industrial regions of southeast Michigan or California, you take the air you breathe for granted. It’s fresh, it’s clean, and it smells like…well, air.

For those living in highly industrial cities in countries such as India and Pakistan, however, smog is a daily irritant and air for them smells like car exhaust, burning wood and trash, and industrial fumes.

In September 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its report on the world’s most polluted cities. India was expected to be on the list because of all the industrialization and vehicle emissions, but there were a couple that was surprising. Also, in the list of top ten cities with the least amount of air pollution, one country, Canada, captured eight of the ten spots! Kudos to you, Canada!

Keep in mind when reading this list that the WHO standards vary from the US’s Environmental Protection Agency’s standards. The six pollutants measured are:

  1. Ozone
  2. Carbon monoxide
  3. Nitrogen dioxide
  4. Sulfur dioxide
  5. Particles found in lead emissions
  6. Coarse particles such as road dust

The EPA separated the particles into two categories. Fine particles would include ozone particles through particles found in lead emissions. Then the second category is inhalable coarse particles, which includes road dust. The WHO makes no distinction between the two; they are all combined into one category.

The Ten Worst Cities For Air Pollution

10. Kanpur, India: The fifth largest city in India, with a population of 3,221,435, is known for its leather and textiles industrial base, which releases a lot of pollution into the air. Other industries in this city include fertilizers, chemical manufacturers, motorcycles/scooters, soap manufacturers and hosiery manufacturers.

9. Yasuj, Iran: Located in the mountains of southwest Iran, this city has a population of 96,786. Currently, the industries in this city are sugar processing and a coal-burning facility that produces electricity for the city. However, plans have been made to open an oil refinery which will produce gasoline, kerosene, oils, asphalt, and sulfur. This will only add to the current pollution level.

8. Gaborone, Botswana: Gabs, as it is known locally, doesn’t have so much of an industrial problem as it does a vehicular one. The city is the capital of Botswana and has continued to experience a boom in growth. Many companies have headquartered here, which means more people and more jobs, which also means more need for transportation. The vehicles in Gabs are all poorly maintained and there are no emissions standards like there are here in the US. Not to mention that they still deal with their numerous landfills and garbage issues by burning. The population is listed at 196,000 in 2014. It is likely to be higher now, in 2017.

7. Peshawar, Pakistan: Population is listed as 3,625,000 and it continues to grow. As in Gabs, Peshawar has many poorly maintained vehicles and most vehicles do not have catalytic converters there, which turns the toxic emissions from vehicles into non-toxic emissions. Peshawar also burns much of their waste.

6. Kermanshah, Iran: Kermanshah has become quite the industrial city for Iran. It currently has a petrochemical refinery, textiles manufacturers, carpet making manufacturers, sugar refineries, food processing plants, and electrical equipment manufacturers. Along with all of those factories’ emissions are the frequent and brutal dust storms they encounter every year. Local meteorologist, Ali Mohammad Zouravand told Mehr News Agency, ” It is not possible to see anything in a distance of over 100 meters in the city of Kermanshah.”

5. Quetta, Pakistan: There has been a lot of construction in this area to try to build a railway system that reaches through to China. Aside from the construction projects, their use of poorly maintained vehicles, use of insecticides in the region, and burning waste puts them at number five for air pollution.

4. Ludhiana, India: This is a huge industrial hub. Many auto parts, machine parts, bicycle parts, and tractor parts are made here. Sewing machines, household appliances, hand tools, precision parts, hosiery, clothing, textiles, and agriproducts are also made in this city. With that much manufacturing going on, it’s easy to see why they are listed at number four.

3. Sanandaj, Iran: Processing of animal hides and skins occurs here, as well as sugar refining, and metalware, such as producing cutlery. This area is also known for its dust storms, similar to Kermanshah, Iran.

2. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Industrial pollution is to blame for their air quality here. There is much construction happening, as well as a lot of mining operations – mining for gold, tungsten, tin, coal, and copper. They also have vehicle emissions to be concerned about and the burning of trash. In recent years, there have been a number of babies born unhealthy or with birth defects and although they can’t determine what exactly is causing this, they suspect it has to do with the air pollution that the mothers are breathing in while they are pregnant.

1. Ahwaz, Iran: A very heavy industrial region, low-quality gas for their poorly maintained vehicles without catalytic converters, steel manufacturing, and oil exploration all lead Ahwaz to be the most air polluted city in the world.