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Ranked: The 20 Most Air-Polluted Cities on Earth

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Ranked: The 20 Most Air-Polluted Cities on Earth

Ranked: The 20 Most Air-Polluted Cities on Earth

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on real assets and resource megatrends each week.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost the entire global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO air quality limits.

In the above map, we use 2022 average PM2.5 concentrations from IQAir’s World Air Quality Report to visualize the most air-polluted major cities in the world.

World’s Air Pollution Hot Spots

As one of the standard air quality indicators used by the WHO, the PM2.5 concentration refers to the quantity of fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less in a given volume of air.

Fine particulate matter that is this small can penetrate the lungs when inhaled and enter the bloodstream, affecting all major organs.

Based on annual average PM2.5 concentrations (μg/m³) in 2022, here are the most polluted cities in the world.

RankCity 2022 average PM2.5 concentration (μg/m³)
1🇵🇰 Lahore, Pakistan97.4
2🇨🇳 Hotan, China94.3
3🇮🇳 Bhiwadi, India92.7
4🇮🇳 Delhi, India92.6
5🇵🇰 Peshawar, Pakistan91.8
6🇮🇳 Darbhanga, India90.3
7🇮🇳 Asopur, India90.2
8🇹🇩 N'Djamena, Chad89.7
9🇮🇳 New Delhi, India89.1
10🇮🇳 Patna, India88.9
11🇮🇳 Ghaziabad, India88.6
12🇮🇳 Dharuhera, India87.8
13🇮🇶 Baghdad, Iraq86.7
14🇮🇳 Chapra, India85.9
15🇮🇳 Muzaffarnagar, India85.5
16🇵🇰 Faisalabad, Pakistan84.5
17🇮🇳 Greater Noida, India83.2
18🇮🇳 Bahadurgarh, India82.2
19🇮🇳 Faridabad, India79.7
20🇮🇳 Muzaffarpur, India79.2

With numbers these high, the concentration of some or all of the following pollutants are at dangerous levels in these cities:

  • Ground-level ozone
  • Particulate matter
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide

At the top of the list, Lahore in Pakistan has a combination of high vehicle and industrial emissions, as well as smoke from brick kilns, crop residue, general waste burning, and dust from construction sites.

Air pollution levels can also be impacted by practices such as large-scale tree removal in order to build new roads and buildings.

As a result of its growing population and rapidly expanding industrial sector, India has 14 cities on the list, outpacing China, formerly considered the world’s number one air pollution source.

The only African country on the list, Chad, experienced severe dust storms in 2022 that resulted in an 18% increase in PM2.5 concentration in 2022 compared to the previous year.

The Cost of Poor Air Quality

Poor air quality is one of the leading causes of early deaths worldwide, just behind high blood pressure, tobacco use, and poor diet.

According to a 2020 study by the Health Effects Institute, 6.67 million people died as a result of air pollution in 2019.

In addition to the millions of premature deaths each year, the global cost of health damages associated with air pollution currently sits at $8.1 trillion.

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Visualized: Food Waste in the United States

This chart visualizes the flow of the 80 millions tons of food waste in the United States in 2021, using data from ReFED.

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the preview image for a sankey diagram that follows the sources of food waste in america to their destinations

Visualized: Food Waste in the United States

This was originally posted on the Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Did you know that there is more than 80 million tons of food wasted in the U.S. every year?

To explore where this waste came from and where it went, this graphic by Selin Oğuz visualizes the flow of food waste in the U.S. in 2021 using data from ReFED.

Following Waste from Source to Destination

The biggest source of food waste in the U.S. stemmed from residential households in 2021, accounting for more than 50% of the total.

Farms and the food service industry followed, each accounting for more than 13 million U.S. tons (short tons) of food waste in the same year.

SourcesWeight, U.S. Short TonsShare of Total
Residential43.6M54.0%
Food Service13.6M16.9%
Farm13.5M16.7%
Manufacturing7.02M8.7%
Retail3.01M3.8%
Total80.73M100%

But where did all of this food waste end up?

The data shows us that the answer is primarily landfills, followed by compost and being left unharvested, which occurs due to reasons such as market variability, insufficient labor, or food safety concerns.

What Food Waste Means for the Environment

Whether it’s as a result of spoilage, poor planning, or unrealistic cosmetic standards for produce, food waste squanders valuable resources—such as water, energy, and labor—and intensifies global hunger and food insecurity, according to the United Nations.

Food waste is also a huge source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, contributing to climate change. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 190 million U.S. tons of GHG emissions result from food waste annually.

To put that number into perspective, that is equivalent to the annual emissions of 42 coal power plants.

Overall, the data highlights that food waste occurs at every stage of the food supply chain. Reducing this waste, especially where it is prominently high, can be crucial in achieving food system sustainability in the U.S. and beyond.

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