The state of the environment’s general health worldwide is something that we hear about constantly, often accompanied by images of melting ice caps, mountains of trash and people wearing gas masks.

Air pollution in particular is a very pressing issue as the quality of the air we breathe continuously deteriorates day by day. The amount of hazardous particles that are entering our air has become so bad that up to seven million people die every year as a result according to the World Health Organization.

Nine out of ten people breathe polluted air worldwide so geography is not a factor in who can and cannot be affected. That being said, there are places that are more severely affected by pollution.

Zabol in Iran is recorded as being the most polluted city in the world with 217 micrograms per cubic metre, the World Health Organization’s recommended level of pollution being 18 moicrograms per cubic metre. A common misconception is that the air pollution there is caused by the wind blowing dust into the air when in actual fact it is a result of its proximity to mountains putting the city in a natural bowl of sorts, in which pollutants from burning fossil fuels are then trapped by the dust from storms.  

India dominates this list as six (or seven depending on your source) of the top ten cities with the highest air pollution by particulate matter concentration are all in India. This is a direct result of a huge dependence on fossil fuels, wood and biomass, all of which contribute to the Asian brown cloud which affects India’s weather patterns by delaying the annual monsoon.

Cameroon is also known as being highly polluted especially in the town of Bamenda which has up to 13.2 times the recommended pollution in its air. Unlike most cities the high particulate matter concentration here is a result of deforestation and changing weather patterns. The particulate matter in the air is mostly caused by dust from cleared areas of forest.

The effects of air pollution on the general health of a population are very well documented. The World Health Organization has worked tirelessly to raise awareness. They’ve published statistics that show the most affected regions in the world according to annual deaths resulting from air pollution.

Due to an increasingly capitalistic culture many industries worldwide, especially in Asia, fail to stick to the environmental guidelines they are given and as a result air pollution continues to worsen.  

The Guardian published a list of the cities with the worst pollution on the various continents which gives insight on how this scourge varies globally.