Air pollution globally degraded to unhealthy levels in 2021, according to the report by IQAir, a company that tracks global air quality and markets air-purification systems. The report found that pollution in every country, and in 97% of cities, exceeded the World Health Organization's air quality guidelines.
"It is a shocking fact that no major city or country is providing safe and healthy air to their citizens according to the latest World Health Organization air quality guidelines,'' Frank Hammes, CEO of IQAir, said in a statement. "This report underscores just how much work remains to be done to ensure that everyone has safe, clean and healthy air to breathe. The time for action is now.''
According to the report, the five most polluted countries in 2021 were Bangladesh, Chad, Pakistan, Tajikistan and India. The United States ranked 90th on the list.
The report noted that U.S. air quality has generally improved over the past 50 years, fine-particle pollution actually increased nationally by 7% between 2020 and 2021.
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"The country's reliance on fossil fuels, increasing severity of wildfires as well as varying enforcement of the Clean Air Act from administration to administration have all added to U.S. air pollution,'' according to the report. "Nationwide, 264 million people lived in areas where pollution levels were above the WHO annual guideline for PM2.5 concentrations in 2021.''
The report found that worldwide, only 222 cities of the 6,475 analyzed met the WHO standards for fine-particle pollution. The French territory of New Caledonia, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands met the guidelines.
"We understand better than ever before how air pollution damages our health and economies,'' Greenpeace India Campaign manager Avinash Chanchal said in a statement released with the report.
"This report is a wakeup call, revealing how people worldwide are denied access to clean air," Chanchal said. "Particulate matter air pollution is produced through burning fuels including coal, oil and fossil gas, unsustainable development, and agricultural activities. Addressing the air pollution crisis requires the development of renewable energy resources and clean-powered, accessible public transport. Moreover, solutions to air pollution are also solutions to the climate crisis. Breathing clean air should be a basic human right, not a privilege.''