Top 20 Most Polluted Countries in the World

It’s universal knowledge that clean water is a basic human right, but did you know that access to clean air is also considered a fundamental human right as part of a healthy, safe environment? 

We often take breathing for granted, but this essential physiological process is a challenge that may very well be deadly for many people across the world, particularly in developing and lower income countries.

Understanding the effects of air pollution

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 91% of the world’s population currently lives in areas where air quality levels exceed safe limits. 

Additionally, according to a 2021 study, it’s estimated that air pollution is the cause of up to 20% of deaths worldwide – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

After all, long-term exposure to air pollution due to industrialisation, burning of fossil fuels and wildfire smoke can gradually wreak havoc on our bodies with results ranging from heart disease, respiratory illnesses, loss of eyesight and even cancer. 

The majority of these health issues are caused by airborne particles, or particulate matter known as PM2.5 – tiny specks of pollution that once inhaled can become lodged in the lungs causing a variety of health problems. 

These airborne particles measure under 2.5 micrograms in width and pose a threat greater than smoking, HIV/AIDS or even automobile accidents put together.

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What are the top 20 most polluted countries in the world?

It’s not an over-exaggeration to say that air pollution is an invisible killer. It’s also no coincidence that a majority of the most polluted countries in the world are developing countries. 

Often, developing countries lack the technology and resources to fight pollution as their economies are still growing making it difficult to invest in cleaner sources of energy. Curious to know which countries are some of the most polluted ones in the world?

The following is a ranking of the top 20 most polluted countries in the world as measured based on average annual PM2.5 levels. The results are derived from data sourced from IQAir.

  1. Bangladesh (76.9 µg/m3)
  2. Chad (75.9 µg/m3)
  3. Pakistan (66.8 µg/m3)
  4. Tajikistan (59.4 µg/m3)
  5. India (58.1 µg/m3)
  6. Oman (53.9 µg/m3)
  7. Kyrgyzstan (50.8 µg/m3)
  8. Bahrain (49.8 µg/m3)
  9. Iraq (49.7 µg/m3)
  10. Nepal (46.0 µg/m3)
  11. Sudan (46.0 µg/m3)
  12. Uzbekistan (42.8 µg/m3)
  13. Qatar (38.2 µg/m3)
  14. Afghanistan (37.5 µg/m3)
  15. United Arab Emirates (36.0 µg/m3)
  16. Montenegro (35.2 µg/m3)
  17. Indonesia (34.3 µg/m3)
  18. Nigeria (34.0 µg/m3)
  19. Armenia (33.9 µg/m3)
  20. Mongolia (33.1 µg/m3)

Even at a glance, it’s evident that Bangladesh holds the position as the most polluted country in the world at a whopping 76.9 µg/m3, averaging PM2.5 levels more than 15 times higher than the WHO recommended healthy limit. 

Mongolia, while ranking 20th on the list still has an average that’s at least 6 times more than the WHO recommended limit as well, which suffice to say is a sad reminder of how air pollution remains the bane of many a developing country despite their best efforts.  

What causes air pollution?

There are many factors that affect air pollution levels. While the combustion of fossil fuels takes the top spot as the main culprit, weather conditions, heat waves and wildfires, as well as smog, can all affect air quality. 

The need for clean air has become even more evident in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since it is an airborne virus. Although further studies may need to be conducted to show any substantial evidence that air pollution impacts the number of cases, it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious with the air we breathe.

What can you do?

Image: Screenshot from White Umbrella

Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, so while we may not be in the position to spearhead the change of environmental laws or single-handedly improve the quality of air where we live, there are certain changes we can make for a breath of cleaner, fresher air and ultimately a healthier life for ourselves and our loved ones.

For starters, using an air purifier and steriliser will significantly help change the quality of air in your own living space – and that’s where White Umbrella comes in. At White Umbrella, we improve lives in homes and offices by delivering quality power and air solutions through the innovative Cold Plasma technology.

Many associate the image of air purifiers with noisy units that contribute not only to rising electricity bills but also the inconvenience of taking up precious space at home or in the office. However, this is an outdated view as air purifying technology has come so far that all you need is a single appliance, be it an air conditioner or air steriliser. You don’t even need to purchase multiple cooling and air-purifying appliances when you can have the best of both worlds with 2-in-1 appliances such as the GoldAlps Air-Conditioner

Engineered with the Poka-Yoke philosophy, the GoldAlps Air-Conditioner destroys 99.99% of viruses and is capable of cooling the surrounding air in just 30 seconds – all without compromising the environment so you can enjoy cooler air without the guilt of making a huge dent in your carbon footprint.

At White Umbrella, we believe that you should be able to enjoy a breath of clean, virus- and bacteria-free air no matter where you are – even if you’re on the go – which is why we’ve also designed a range of air purifiers ranging from portable ones like our Flesta Portable to the Flesta Refresh, Flesta Protect and Flesta Purify to suit different space needs.

If you already have air conditioners installed and simply wish to add to their effectiveness then installing a Cold Plasma Ions System such as our PureAir Cold Plasma Ioniser or PureAir+ Cold Plasma Ioniser would be a better option as not only will they supercharge your air-conditioning system with air sterilising and purifying capabilities, but they will also be more cost-effective than changing your entire air conditioning system.

Keeping our air clean and fresh may seem like a daunting task but it’s important to remember that every little bit helps, even if you’re not living in one of the most polluted countries in the world. 

Reducing our carbon footprint doesn’t mean that you need to do without life’s little pleasures – like experiencing the cooling comfort of air-conditioning in your home and workspace. After all, you can always rely on White Umbrella’s eco-friendlier alternatives that won’t put a strain on Mother Nature or your energy bill!