urban air pollution

Building and Sky

Yeah, I know, two pictures mean the title should be pluralized, but I just didn’t want to deal with it.

I’m kinda angry. We’ve had a month or so of fantastic summer weather… probably the best I’ve seen in the almost ten years or so I’ve been traveling to and living in Beijing, and I’ve not seen one mention of it in Western media.

Obviously, it hasn’t just been me posting pictures. Probably tens of millions of people in and around the Beijing area have posted pictures or mentioned the weather in hundreds of millions (or even billions) of posts on various social media platforms… the very same platforms that Western journalists so readily mine when they’ve got a negative story about Beijing (or China in general).

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:


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