Q&A: Do China’s Cities Have the World’s Worst Air Pollution?

Q: Do China’s cities have the world’s worst air pollution?

A: No.

Q: Umh, what about all those articles about the subject?

A. Most of the articles regarding China’s air pollution problem (and there certainly is one), don’t offer any data. That is, they merely state that the air in China’s cities is the worst.

Or, if they do provide data, it usually isn’t comparative in nature. For example, they’ll give the air quality index for a city in China, tell you it is bad (which it probably is), but then won’t tell you how cities in other countries are faring.

Q. Okay, fine, which countries have worse urban air pollution?

A. For those countries for which there is data, they are:

No Country Data
1 Mongolia 279
2 Botswana 216
3 Pakistan 198
4 Senegal 145
5 Saudi Arabia 143
6 Egypt 138
7 United Arab Emirates 132
8 Iran (Islamic Republic of) 124
9 Nigeria 124
10 Kuwait 123
11 Bangladesh 120
12 Bosnia and Herzegovina 117
13 India 109
14 Nepal 106
15 Ghana 98

Q. Where is this data from?

A. The World Health Organization.

In particular, a page on Public Health and Environment (PHE): outdoor air pollution, charting exposure to particulate matter less than 10 µm in diameter in urban areas*, from data available between 2003 and 2010.

Q. Can I look at the data myself?

A. Sure.  The data is available (in sortable table, bar chart, and map forms) at:

http://gamapserver.who.int/gho/interactive_charts/phe/oap_exposure/atlas.html

Note: See underneath the map for information regarding the asterisk in the previous answer.

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2 comments

  1. what a remarkable map…troubling about no data from so many places…and also revealing about particulate matter. so well laid out.

    why do you think the press concentrates on china rather than looking at a world wide problem?

  2. very interesting. and clear (as opposed to the air in those cities!). i like how you use the question format…and how careful you are with your sources. no wonder you are such a good technical writer.

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