Not too long ago, China used to be the country with worst pollution levels on the face of the planet. However, by increasing its forest cover rapidly in recent times, the country has succeeded in moving down to the 12th position among the most polluted countries in the world. So, what are the 10 countries with the worst air now? Below, you are about to find that out.
List of Polluted Countries in the World
With an average PM2.5 concentration of 97.1, Bangladesh tops the list of the countries with the worst pollution levels in the world. The biggest source of air pollution in this small South Asian country is its brickmaking industry. The industry produces more than a whopping 23 billion bricks annually, employing a workforce north of one million. There are over 7,000 brick kilns in the country, the lion’s share of which are fixed chimney kilns with little to no pollution controls.
Amid an infrastructure boom, the construction industry in Bangladesh is growing, as a result of which the demand for bricks is on the rise as well. And with the government not showing enough vigilance to combat air pollution, the brickmaking industry here can only be expected to grow more, making the air pollution situation worse than ever.
Pakistan claims the second spot among the world’s most polluted countries. According to a 2015 study published in the medical journal Lancet, pollution is responsible for around 22 percent of the deaths in the country every year. The country has an average PM2.5 concentration of 74.27, for which, its government blames its adversarial neighbor India.
However, Pakistan’s rational public would admit that the unhealthy levels of pollution here have less to do with what is going on in India, and more with the growing number of fuel-powered transportation, brick kilns and steel mills, large-scale deforestation, and the burning of garbage within its own territory.
Like its neighbors, India too is struggling badly to keep pollution under control. The average PM2.5 concentration in this country is 72.54, which isn’t significantly less than that in Pakistan. The rising levels of smog here are caused by motor vehicles, the extensive burning of coal and wood, dust storms, and forest fires.
India is home to 21 out of the world’s 30 most polluted cities. The most notable of these cities is Kanpur, whose medical college admits around 600 patients with respiratory illness every month. In the country’s capital New Delhi, poor quality of air has forced flight cancellations and closing of schools in the recent times. Even the white marble walls of the wondrous Taj Mahal have turned green due to pollution.
In Afghanistan, air pollution is turning out to be a bigger issue than war. The country whose PM2.5 concentration is 61.80 witnessed the loss of about 26,000 lives caused by air pollution-related diseases in 2017. In contrast, war took away less than 3,500 lives that year.
Afghanistan doesn’t have as many motor vehicles or high-emission industries as its South Asian neighbors have. The culprit behind air pollution in the country is the combustion of poor quality fuel in its households. Its capital Kabul is particularly affected due to the surrounding mountains that trap polluted air and dust over the city.
With an average PM2.5 concentration of 59.80, Bahrain ranks fifth among the most polluted countries in the world. Some of the sources of air pollution in the Middle Eastern country include the emissions of oil refineries, power stations, and motor vehicles, the extensive use of chemical compounds, as well as the burning of waste materials in open spaces.
However, nature too is a key factor in play behind the air pollution in Bahrain. The island nation frequently gets hit by heavy dust and sand storms that are known to pick up radioactive materials and several harmful chemicals from distant places like the Sahara.
In a country where people burn coal, wood and crop residue in their stoves, there’s definitely going to be a lot of air pollution. And Mongolia is such a country. It has an average PM2.5 concentration of 58.50. Over the last decade, the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator has seen a 270 percent increase in respiratory infections among its people.
The lung function of children living in the city is 40 percent lower than that of those residing in rural Mongolia. Good news, however, is that the government has recently imposed a ban on coal burning in Ulan Bator, which is expected to make the air here significantly healthier in near future.
Kuwait claims the seventh spot among the countries with the worst pollution. The average PM2.5 concentration here is 56.00. The oil industry, which is the backbone of the country’s economy, is the key source of air pollution in its territory.
Other sources of air pollution in Kuwait include fuel-powered transportation, construction projects and industrial facilities. Like Bahrain, this Middle Eastern country too can partially blame dust and sand storms for its unhealthy air.
The average PM2.5 concentration in Nepal is 54.15, making it the eight-most polluted country on Earth. Motor vehicles, brick kilns and other industrial facilities are the leading sources of air pollution in this Himalayan country.
Illness caused by air pollution takes away around 35,000 lives in Nepal every year. Also, one out of every 10 Nepalese suffers from a chronic lung problem like bronchitis or emphysema today.
9. United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is yet another Middle Eastern country with seriously unhealthy air. It has an average PM2.5 concentration of 49.93.
The biggest culprits behind air pollution in the UAE are oil industry and high vehicular density. And then, there are dust and sand storms that make things even worse for the country.
Africa’s sole representative in the list of the 10 most polluted countries in the world is Nigeria, with an average PM2.5 concentration of 44.84. There aren’t enough motor vehicles or industrial facilities in the country to be held accountable for the high pollution levels.
But what can be blamed for Nigeria’s unhealthy air is the three-plus million tons of waste produced here every year, and burned in an uncontrolled way. Household air pollution is also an issue in that regard.
I hope that this article on the most polluted countries on the planet was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Rankings Page!