Air quality in most cities that monitor their air pollution levels exceed what the World Health Organization deems as safe.
Delhi has the highest level of the airborne particulate matter, PM2.5 considered most harmful to health, with 153 micrograms. Not far behind is another Indian city, Patna with 149 micrograms. These figures are six times what the WHO considers a “safe” limit — which is 25 micrograms.
Half of the top 20 cities in the world with the highest levels of PM2.5 were in India, according to the air pollution data released by the WHO, which included 1,600 cities. Other cities with high levels were located in Pakistan and Bangladesh. PM2.5 refers to the diameter measured in microns of particulates such as ammonia, carbon, nitrates and sulfate — which are small enough to pass into the bloodstream and cause diseases, including emphysema and cancer.
No Chinese cities ranked in the top 20 most polluted cities, despite thick, gray smog filling its cities and millions of residents commuting behind surgical masks. Beijing reported 56 micrograms of PM2.5. This year, Chinese leaders have declared “war on pollution.”
“Originally designed as compact entities to reduce the length of travel … (Indian cities) are becoming victims of killer pollution, congestion and a crippling car-dependent infrastructure,” according to the group.
Air pollution has spread by increasing reliance on fossil fuels, coal-fired power plants, cars and the use of biomass for cooking and heating.