Report: Air Unsafe in Most Countries

Mar 22, 2024

Air Quality Index

The air in most of the world’s countries is unfit to breathe. And the dirtiest is in Asia, a new report says.

The Swiss company IQAir released its yearly World Air Quality Report on Tuesday. It surveyed 134 countries and territories for air health. It found that a mere 10 out of 134 met the World Health Organization’s clean air standard.     

The report focused on the smallest but most lethal pollutant. That's fine particulate matter called PM2.5. It's spread by burning fossil fuels, dust storms, and fires. When inhaled, PM2.5 can travel into the lungs. It can also travel to the bloodstream. Studies have linked PM2.5 to a number of heart and lung diseases.    

“We see that in every part of our lives that air pollution has an impact,” IQAir Global CEO Frank Hammes told CNN. Hammes said that impact often happens in some of the most polluted countries. He said it is likely shaving off "between three to six years of people’s lives.”  

The world’s top five countries with the poorest air, cited by IQAir, are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, and Burkina Faso. Combined, they are home to roughly one-fourth of the world’s population. The countries and territories with air deemed safe enough by WHO are: Australia, Bermuda, Estonia, Finland, French Polynesia, Grenada, Iceland, Mauritius, Puerto Rico, and New Zealand. Most of them are island nations. 

IQAir ranked Begusarai, India, as the world’s top city with the poorest air. For the US, it was Columbus, Ohio.  

The report was based on data gathered from 7,812 places in 134 countries. Yet its authors stated the report is not complete. The United Nations recognizes 195 countries. Among the world’s seven continents, the least amount of data was received from Africa, IQAir said.   

Reflect: If you were the leader of a country affected by air pollution, what steps would you take to protect your citizens?

If readers want to learn about how air quality affects human health, they can learn about it in_______. (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. the infographic only
b. the article only
c. both the infographic and article
d. neither the infographic nor the article
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