No country provides clean air to its citizens, fails to meet WHO guidelines

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New Delhi: No country in the world managed to meet the latest World Health Organization (WHO) 2.5 annual air quality guidelines, as per the 2021 World Air Quality report.

But only 3.4 percent of the surveyed cities managed to meet the standard in 2021, according to data compiled by IQAir, a Swiss pollution technology company that monitors air quality.

As many as 93 cities in the report had annual PM2.5 concentrations exceeding 10 times the WHO PM2.5 guidelines.

The report analyses PM2.5 air pollution measurements from air monitoring stations in 6,475 cities in 117 countries, regions, and territories.

IQAir’s 2021 World Air Quality Report is the first major global air quality report based on the updated annual WHO air quality guidelines for PM2.5.

The new guidelines were released in September 2021 and cut the existing annual PM2.5 guideline value from 10 g/m3 to 5 g/m3.

According to the latest World Health Organization air quality guidelines, “it is a shocking fact that no major city or country is providing safe and healthy air to their citizens,” said Frank Hammes, CEO of IQAir.

This report underscores just how much work remains to be done to ensure that everyone has safe, clean, and healthy air to breathe. The time for action is now, “he added.

As per the report, New Delhi  is the world’s most polluted capital city for the fourth consecutive year followed by Dhaka (Bangladesh), N’Djamena (Chad), Dushanbe (Tajikistan) and Muscat (Oman).

Among the countries, the report mentioned that Bangladesh is the most polluted country in the world, followed by Chad, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and India.

Air quality in China continued to improve in 2021. More than half of the cities in China included in the report saw lower levels of air pollution when compared to the previous year.

“Pollution levels within the capital city of Beijing continued a five-year trend of improved air quality, driven by emission control and reduction of coal power plant activity and other high emission industries” it said.

Central and South Asia had some of the world’s worst air quality in 2021 and were home to 46 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities.

The only two cities that met the updated WHO PM2.5 guideline were Zhezqazghan and Chu (Kazakhstan). 

Fine particle pollution, known as PM2.5, is commonly accepted to be the most harmful, widely-monitored air pollutant and has been found to be a major contributing factor to health effects such as asthma, stroke, heart and lung diseases. PM2.5 leads to millions of premature deaths every year.

The report covered 2,408 cities in the United States and found that average PM2.5 concentrations rose from 9.6 µg/m3 to 10.3 µg/m3 in 2021 compared to 2020. Of the major cities in the United States, Los Angeles was the most polluted. However, the City of Angels saw an overall decrease in PM2.5 pollution of 6 percent compared to 2020.

Speaking about the report, Greenpeace India Campaign manager Avinash Chanchal said, “We understand better than ever before how air pollution damages our health and economies.”

“This report is a wakeup call, revealing how people worldwide are denied access to clean air” he added.

The 2021 World Air Quality Report is based on PM2.5 air pollution data from ground-based air quality monitoring stations in 6,475 cities in 117 countries, regions and territories.

The majority of the air quality monitoring stations included in this report were managed by governmental agencies, with the remainder managed by citizen scientists, non-profit organizations, and businesses.

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