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IQ Air Quality Report 2021: Highlights

Published on Friday, May 06, 2022
  • The 2021 World Air Quality Report was released by IQAir, a Swiss group following WHO air quality guidelines.
  • This group measures the air quality levels based on the concentration of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5.
  • Data are collected from governmental agencies and privately-owned stations operated mainly by individuals, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations.
  • This report presented an overview of the state of global air quality in 2021.
  • PM2.5 concentrations, in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³), were selected as the standard metric for this report.
  • The most common sources of PM2.5 are dust storms, sandstorms, wildfires, internal combustion engines, power generation, industrial processes, agricultural processes, construction, and residential wood and coal burning.
  • The air quality guidelines are released by WHO since 1987.

Key Findings

Cleanest Air Quality Country: 

  • Oceania has the cleanest overall air quality in the world.
  • 46 cities in Australia, 1 in New Zealand, and 1 in New Caledonia all met the WHO PM2.5 air quality guideline of 5 µg/m³.
  • Australia and New Zealand have less dense populations than most wealthier nations and lower air pollution levels.

Most Polluted Country:

  • Bangladesh was the most polluted country in the world in 2021.
  • Bangladesh recorded an average PM2.5 level of 76.9 micrograms per cubic metre in 2021 against the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended maximum permissible level of 5 micrograms per cubic metre.
  • Earlier, in 2018, 2019 and 2020 also Bangladesh was found to be the most polluted country in the world.
  • Among the cities, Dhaka was the second most polluted city in the world with a PM 2.5 level of 78.1 just below New Delhi which had a PM 2.5 level of 85.1 in 2021.

Performance of India:

  • New Delhi continues to be the world’s most polluted capital city for the fourth consecutive year.
  • As per the report, in 2021, India was home to 11 of the 15 most polluted cities in Asia.
  • 35 Indian cities have been listed by the index under the worst air quality tag for 2021.
  • No cities in India met the WHO air quality guideline of 5 µg/m³.
  • In 2021, 48% of India's cities exceeded 50 µg/m³, or more than 10 times the WHO guideline.

Highlights:

  1. EAST ASIAN COUNTRIES (China Mainland, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Macau SAR, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan) - PM2.5 concentrations greater than 7 times WHO's PM2.5 guideline of 5 µg/m³.
  2. CENTRAL AND SOUTH ASIAN COUNTRIES (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan) - PM2.5 concentrations greater than 10 times the 2021 WHO air quality guideline level
  3. WEST ASIAN COUNTRIES (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Georgia, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates) - PM2.5 concentrations greater than 10 times the 2021 WHO air quality guideline level
  4. EUROPE COUNTRIES- PM2.5 concentrations in this region span from 5.5 µg/m³ in Finland (ranked globally at 113) to 35.2 µg/m³ in Montenegro. More cities in Europe already met or trying to meet the WHO guidelines in meeting air quality.
  5. NORTH AMERICAN COUNTRIES - 96% of U.S. and Canadian cities were not able to get below the WHO annual 5 μg/m³ guideline for PM2.5 levels
  6. LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES - 2% of the 174 regional cities, met the 2021 WHO air quality guidelines for PM2.5.
  7. AFRICAN COUNTRIES - PM2.5 concentrations greater than 10 times the 2021 WHO air quality guideline level
  8. OCEANIA- Most of the cities in Oceania meet the WHO air quality guideline level

Concerns Associated with Air Pollution: 

  • Air pollution is now considered to be the world’s largest environmental health threat, accounting for 7 million deaths around the world every year.
  • Air pollution has a massive impact on human health in the world.
  • Air pollution above PM 2.5 is not considered to be safe. For that reason, only PM 2.5 is set as a standard to measure air quality by WHO.
  • The estimated daily economic cost of air pollution has been figured at $8 billion (USD), or 3 to 4 percent of the gross world product.

What Can Government do to Prevent Air Pollution?

  • Invest in renewable energy sources.
  • Provide subsidies to encourage the use of battery and human-powered transportation methods.
  • Expand public transportation and power with clean and renewable energy sources.
  • Build additional infrastructure to encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
  • Adopt new air quality standards based on the 2021 World Health Organization Air Quality Guidelines.
  • Implement forest management strategies to limit wildfires.
  • Ban agricultural and biomass burning.
  • Increase the number of public air quality monitoring stations.
  • Provide incentives to non-governmental organizations and individuals who set up their own air quality monitoring stations.

What Can An Individual do to Prevent Air Pollution?

  • Use air filters and air purification systems where possible.
  • Wear a KN95, N95, or FFP2 respirator mask when air quality is unhealthy.
  • Reduce activities outdoors when air quality is unhealthy.
  • Choose cleaner, greener modes of transport such as walking, biking, and riding public transportation.
  • Reduce waste by recycling, upcycling, and purchasing less.
  • Help to raise air pollution awareness in your community.
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