Air Pollution presents a major global issue and threat to both developed and in particular, developing countries and nations. Air pollution can be classified as a type of disaster depending on its severity. So many of our daily activities contribute to air pollution locally, which in turn has a significant global impact. In particular, the cars we drive, industries we support through general consumer goods consumption as well as other man-made or natural disasters such as forest and wildfires are also major contributors to air pollutants. Air pollutants can include substances like carbon monoxide, nitrogen and sulfur dioxide and ozone, as well as particulate matter, which are essentially any particle matter those measures 2.5 microns or less in diameter, and as such, can be easily inhaled. All of these pose serious health risks including respiratory and other diseases. Scarily, according to the World Health Organization, 99% of the population breathes “air that exceeds WHO guideline limits and contains high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures.”

IQAir is a Swiss-based air quality technology company that provides global rankings on the most polluted countries globally. Recently we’ve seen that New Delhi, in India, has had to close schools due to the air pollution reaching unfathomable levels. New Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) continuously crosses the 450 markers, which is more than 10 times the “acceptable” breathing limit. What does this mean? Air polluted to this degree is comparable to “smoking 20-30 cigarettes a day.” This is not the first time that schools have had to close due to air pollution, events such as these have been increasing, and unfortunately, cannot be mitigated by wearing masks, or any other preventative measures. India is far from the only country struggling with such issues.

IQAir’s 2022 report which looked at a reporting period of 2018 – 2022 ranked the worst-polluted countries in the following order, starting with Chad as the most polluted country, followed by Iraq, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Kuwait, India, Egypt, and Tajikistan. The majority of these countries bear such high levels of air pollution due to ‘vehicular emissions and industrial activities’ which are often exacerbated by poor living conditions and dense populations. Unfortunately, most countries lack the resources to be able to effectively tackle these issues on their own, therefore “leaner air involves a combination of government initiatives, international collaboration, and individual actions to reduce emissions and protect the planet for future generations.”