Of the 6,475 analyzed, only 222 cities had average air quality that met WHO standards. Three regions have been found to have complied with the WHO guidelines: the French territory of New Caledonia and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were among the countries with the worst air pollution, the guidelines exceeded at least 10 times.
Scandinavian countries, Australia, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom are ranked among the best countries for air quality, with average levels exceeding the guidelines 1 to 2 times.
In the United States, IQAir found that air pollution exceeded WHO guidelines 2 to 3 times in 2021.
“This report underscores the need for governments around the world to help reduce global air pollution,” IQAA North America CEO Glory Dolphin Hams told CNN. “(Particulate matter) kills a lot more people every year and the government needs to set stricter air quality standards and explore better foreign policies that promote improved air quality.”
IQAir analyzed pollution-monitoring stations in 6,475 cities across 117 countries, territories and territories.
“The reliance on (US) fossil fuels, increasing wildfires, as well as various enforcement of the Clean Air Act from administration to administration have all contributed to US air pollution,” the authors wrote.
Researchers say the main sources of pollution in the United States were fossil fuel-powered transportation, energy production and fires, which wreak havoc on the country’s most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
“We’re very dependent on fossil fuels, especially transportation,” said Hams, who lives a few miles from Los Angeles. “We can work smart on it with zero emissions, but we’re not doing that yet. And it’s having a devastating effect on the air pollution we’re seeing in major cities.”
“It’s part of the whole formula that will lead or lead to global warming.” Hams said.
The report also highlights some inequalities: Monitoring stations remain scarce in Africa, South America and some developing countries in the Middle East, resulting in a lack of air quality data in those regions.
“When you don’t have that data, you’re really in the dark,” Hams said.
Hams noted that the African country Chad was included in the report for the first time, due to the improvement of its observation network. According to IQAir, air pollution in Bangladesh was the second highest in the world last year.
Tariq Benmarahnia, a climate change epidemiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who has studied the health effects of wildfire smoke, noted that relying solely on monitoring stations could lead to blind spots in these reports.
“I think it’s great that they relied on different networks and not just government sources,” Benmarahnia, who was not involved in the report, told CNN. “However, in many areas there are not enough stations and alternative strategies exist.”
Hams says the IQAAR report is even more of a reason to shut down the world’s fossil fuels.
“We’ve got the report, we can read it, we can internalize it and really commit ourselves to taking action,” he said. “We need to take a big step towards renewable energy. We need to take drastic steps to reverse the tide of global warming; otherwise, the impact and the train we are on will be irreversible.”