Latest air pollution data ranks world’s cities worst to best

Delhi still the most polluted capital across the world (2018) but India has many more polluted geographies than the capital city with limited but increasing data availability for hazardous PM2.5 particles

New Delhi, India, 5 March 2019

The latest data compiled in the IQAir AirVisual 2018 World Air Quality Report and interactive World’s Most Polluted Cities ranking, prepared in collaboration with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, reveals the state of particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in 2018. It highlights a widespread but unequal distribution of PM2.5 pollution and limited access to public information.[1],[2],[3]

The data highlights that out of 20 most polluted cities in the world, 18 are in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh while Beijing, once among the most polluted cities in the world ranked 122nd in the list of most polluted cities in 2018 based on PM2.5 data but is still at-least 5 times more polluted than the WHO annual safety limits of 10 µg/m3.

Executive Director of Greenpeace South East Asia, Yeb Sano, said, “Air pollution steals our livelihoods and our futures, but we can change that. In addition to human lives lost, there’s an estimated global cost of 225 billion dollars in lost labour, and trillions in medical costs. this has enormous impacts, on our health and on our wallets. We want this report to make people think about the air we breathe, because when we understand the impacts of air quality on our lives, we will act to protect what’s most important.”

The database comprising of PM2.5 data for more than 3000 cities reminds us of grim health emergency the world faces from air pollution again after the WHO air quality database released last year. India still hosts 15 out of 20 most polluted cities in the world with Gurugram and Ghaziabad being the most polluted cities in the world followed by Faridabad, Bhiwadi and Noida being in top six with Delhi on the 11th spot.

Frank Hammes, IQAir CEO, said, “The 2018 World Air Quality Report is based on the review, compilation and validation of data from tens of thousands of air quality monitoring stations around the world. Now everyone with a cellphone has free access to this data via the AirVisual platform. This has also created demand for air quality monitoring in cities or regions where no public data is available. Communities and organizations from California to Kabul are supplementing governmental monitoring efforts with their own low cost air quality monitoring networks, and are giving everyone access to more hyper-local information.”

Multiple databases on air quality including recent report Airpocalypse-III by Greenpeace India have reminded us of how air pollution is impacting our daily lives in India. The report highlighted that the number of non-attainment cities in India has gone up to 241 from initially identified 102 by CPCB and MoEF&CC under NCAP making it about 80% of the locations with PM10 monitoring data.

Pujarini Sen, Greenpeace India said, “IQAir AirVisual 2018 World Air Quality Report is a reminder to us indicating that our efforts and actions to reduce the invisible killer, i.e., air pollution are not enough, and we need to do much more than already planned and done. If we want India to breathe clean air, it’s high time that our plans such as NCAP, GRAP, CAP etc. becomes much more stringent, aggressive, legally binding and most of all implementable at ground rather than being just used a political statement without much happening at ground.”

Sen concluded by saying, “Beijing is showing us that it can be done as have many other cities in Europe and U.S. over past decades, we have enough of research and studies suggesting the way ahead towards breathable India, the question which remains to be answered is whether there is enough political will to aggressively fight the health emergency India faces today and move away from polluting fuels and practices of past?”


A Media Briefing is available HERE



Pujarini Sen, +91 8586016050, [email protected],

Rohin Verma, +91 90139 71997, [email protected]
Avinash Kumar, +91 88821 53664, [email protected]

IQAir AirVisual

Tiffany Allegretti, IQAir Public Relations Manager: [email protected] +1 562-903-7600 ext. 112

[1] Data collected and compiled by IQAir AirVisual.

[2] Air quality ranking measurements are indicative and not absolute.

[3] While the global health impacts of air pollution are dominated by PM2.5, there are other air pollutants like ultrafine particles, nitrogen dioxide and ozone that pose severe health risks. Looking at PM2.5 only does not give a complete picture of air quality and health risks in some regions with relatively low PM2.5 levels.