NewslettersSign inAPP
spainSPAINchileCHILEcolombiaCOLOMBIAusaUSAmexicoMEXICOlatin usaLATIN USAamericaAMERICA


What cities have the worst air quality? Global city ranking

Chicago has become the latest city to jump to the top of the list of cities with the worst air quality due to wildfire smoke blowing down from Canada.

Chicago air quality plummets as wildfire smoke blows in

Wildfires burning across Canada are not only an environmental disaster for that country but also for the United States. The massive plumes of smoke are being carried as far away as Western Europe, where they aren’t affected the air quality simply darkening the skies. However, as they blow over cities both north and south of the border at lower altitudes the smoke has wreaked havoc creating unhealthy conditions for millions.

Generally, those that live in the US and Canadian experience relatively low levels of air pollution in comparison to the rest of the world. However, the most recent city to get thrust to the top of IQAir’s list of cities with the worst air quality is Chicago. Earlier in June, the same happened to New York where the skies turned an eerie orange and blotted out the Sun.

It was so bad in the Big Apple that the air was considered hazardous to breathe, the highest level. The Windy City as of 11 am on Tuesday 27 June, the air quality had deteriorated to the second highest level of “very unhealthy” registering 209 on the NowCast AQI. For comparison, New York exceeded 400 out of a scale that goes to 500 on 7 June, when it typically averages below 50, or “good”.

New York City under wildfire smoke haze 7 June 2023
Full screen
New York City under wildfire smoke haze 7 June 2023Shannon StapletonREUTERS

What cities have the worst air quality? Global city ranking

Air pollution can be extremely hazardous to ones health, especially over extended periods of time. Around 90 percent of the world’s population lived in areas with unhealthy air quality based on World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations according to a new report from IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company. The most polluted major cities in 2022 were located in Asia with very unhealthy conditions recorded in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe.

The WHO recommends that the amount of particle matter 2.5, or PM2.5, that is safe not exceed 5 μg/m3. PM2.5 are fine particles measuring two and one half microns or less in width, about thirty times smaller than that of a human hair.

Normally, the two United States cities see much more moderate levels of air pollution qualified as good with their annual average air quality exceeding WHO guidelines 1 to 2 times. That can’t be said for the vast majority of the world population. Here are the cities that topped the IQAir list in 2022.

Top ten most polluted cities in the world 2022

RankingCityCountryAverage PM2.5 in 2022
9New DelhiIndia89.1

To be able to comment you must be registered and logged in. Forgot password?