Living in a city with poor air quality can have immense effects on your health. Air pollution can increase a person’s risk of asthma, emphysema, and chronic respiratory disease. Long-term health problems can also occur when living in a polluted environment that contains hazardous chemicals and poisons in the air. Chances of developing heart disease, liver and kidney damage, as well lung cancer, increase daily when you continuously breathe in toxins. We’ve compiled a list of the cities with the worst air quality in the world, and the harmful side effects their citizens develop.
Tianying, China’s air is polluted with lead concentration as a result of illegal mining. 140,000 people inhale the dust and lead toxins on a daily basis, which causes severe cases of lead poisoning in the city. Residents reportedly suffer from hearing and visual problems, stomach aches, colon impairment, and kidney malfunction. Long-term health effects on the brain include acquired learning disabilities, shortened attention spans, and hyperactivity. Tianying is one of the worst-polluted cities in China, with attempts at a clean-up project failing miserably.
Chernobyl experienced the world’s most devastating nuclear disaster in 1986 when a nearby power plant melted a powerful reactor. The amount of radiation that filled the air has made it impossible to live within a 19 mile radius of the ghost town. The chemical particles present in the air quality include uranium, plutonium, and cesium-137. Since the accident, more than 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer have been found in children and young adults. Residents in the surrounding areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia are still breathing the dangerous air quality, risking skin lesions, respiratory disease and birth defects.
Mongolia’s capital contains an air quality of six-seven times higher than international health standards. The city’s residents are most likely to contract a respiratory illness from breathing in the toxins from wood and coal burning, local power plants, and dust from the desert. A surplus of unfamiliar diseases are developing from the combination of the air’s chemicals, motivating environmental stress in the troubled region. The government of Mongolia has received a $45 million donation from the World Bank to clean up its city, but a change in lifestyle is also necessary to keep Ulaanbaatar clean.
The World Health Organization has ranked Delhi’s air quality the worst in the world. The air pollution in India’s capital kills around 1.5 million people each year, with the most frequent cause of death being chronic respiratory disease. Vehicular pollution is reported to be the main cause of the city’s poor air quality, alongside burning garage and the use of diesel generators. The polluted air increases the chance of autism, epilepsy, and diabetes in developing children, and early death for adults. The Indian government has yet to take substantial action on the environmental stressors creating such severe health risks, but air quality monitoring stations are a temporary aide.
Louisville, Kentucky harbors hot summer air and power plant chemicals in its valley. The southern city is plagued with excess carbon monoxide from vehicular use and toxic waste from the power plants. Local residents are at risk of developing lung disease and asthma, and increase their chances of heart attacks and strokes. The Lung Association in Kentucky is working to implement a clean-up plan that will cut the waste extracted from power plants and reduce immediate health concerns.
Norilsk, Russia is suffering from an epidemic of polluted air. The residents of the industrial city are breathing in sulfur dioxide, nickel, cobalt, copper, lead and selenium. The city is the most polluted area in Russia, with a 15% mortality rate amongst children with respiratory diseases. Living in Norilsk poses other health risks such as pregnancy complications, digestive disorders, and lung cancer. Norilsk Nickel, the firm at fault for the excessive air pollutants, are under surveillance by Blacksmith Institute in an attempt to monitor dangerous waste.
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles’ air quality is the worst in the United States. The air is polluted with vehicle fumes largely due to heavy traffic, and the trade port expels toxic waste and dust that contaminate breathing particles. The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that most life-threatening health risks to look out for are reproductive harm, cancer, cardiovascular harm, respiratory impairment an damage to the central nervous system. The city struggles to reduce their level of air pollution, but has made notable strides to better the quality of air in the last two decades.
Kanpur, India maintains its poor air quality through the use of commercial vehicles, domestic cooking, and industrial sector services. Open burning and the use of natural gas are also contributing factors to polluted air, therefore the government has banned these activities to reduce harmful effects on resident’s health. Raised blood pressure, risk of heart attack, and respiratory tract infections are directly linked to breathing the air in Kanpur. At the moment, there is no official plan for clean-up or waste management.
London’s sparkling reputation is tarnished by its air quality. The air is contaminated with NO-2 gas particles that come from diesel engines, vehicle exhaust, construction sites and heating systems. 9,500 people die annually because of the pollution in England’s greatest city, and the alternative health effects are always lifelong. Earlier this year, London surpassed its national legal limit for air pollution and won’t actually achieve clean air until 2025.
Kabwe, Zambia once housed a mining and smelting base, which had polluted the air quality to destructive levels. The base ceased operation 1994, leaving the city’s air contaminated with lead and cadmium poisoning. About 300,000 residents are affected by the toxins, majority of them being children. The highest health risks in Kabwe are respiratory illness, lead poisoning and raised blood levels. Currently, the Zambia Copperbelt Environmental Project has been donated $40 million, and is working on cleaning up the waste polluting the area.
La Oroya, Peru
Le Oraya is a mining town located in Peru, struggling with air quality that is contaminated by lead, sulfur, zinc, and copper. These particular toxins have effected the blood level of the town’s children, impairing the mental and physical development of the youth in their community. Le Oraya has began to implement an alert program, which warms the city’s residents of high toxic air quality to limit their exposure to the chemicals and fumes. An estimated 35,000 people have already been affected with long-term health problems.
The air in Sukinda is polluted with hexavalent chromium that comes from the 12 mining plants located in the valley. 30 millions tons of waste are scattered throughout the operation grounds, contaminating the air and soil of the city. Health problems that are a direct effect of the polluted air include gastrointestinal bleeding, asthma and tuberculosis. The Orissa Voluntary Health Association has reported that 86.4% of Sukinda’s death are a result of the chromite-related illnesses, and note that no waste management plans have been implemented to rectify the poor quality of air.
The World Health Organization has ranked Peshawar the 2nd most polluted city in the world. Peshawar’s brick making industry, along with industrial emissions, thrust toxic chemicals and dust in the city’s air. The low-quality air is likely to increase a resident’s chance of lung cancer, heart disease, acid rains and respiratory illness. Pakistan is struggling with the limited resources available to them, making an environmental clean-up a clear obstacle to overcome.
The air pollution in Santiago, Chile has shut down school, businesses, and created an influenza outbreak in 2015. The industrial city traps its self-produced smog where the residents live, manifesting chemical toxins and textiles without an available exit. The air pollution is likely to cause cardiovascular disease, with an increase of hospital visits since 2014. The city is attempting to combat the sulfur and nitrogen oxides contaminating the air, but its frequent climate changes make it a difficult task.
Gaborone is listed as the 8th most polluted city in the world. Fire wood, animal excrement, and paraffin are responsible for the poor quality of air in Botswana’s capital. The particles from burning these materials fester in the local environment, and residents inhale the toxins from these fumes on a daily basis. Most deaths have occurred in relation to air pollution are a result of cardiovascular disease and heart disease.
Bakersfield is only city in California that can compete with Los Angeles for poor air quality. The pollutants in this agricultural city get trapped in the bowl that is the San Joaquin Valley, and the smog that takes over the mountain town can be suffocating. Bakersfield has a flag system that indicates air quality for the day; green is god, yellow is cautionary, orange is risky, and red is the sign to stay inside. High levels of asthma, cardiovascular disease and respiratory illnesses have been reported in this city.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Dar es Salaam suffers from high levels of air pollution due to vehicle exhaust fumes. Expelled carbon monoxide from high traffic volumes create dangerous levels of pollutants in the air. Inhaling these dangerous chemicals could lead to inflammation of the lungs and an impaired nervous system. The problem is a growing one, with car-owners rapidly increasing each year with not enough spaces to park.
Across the world, we encounter another city who suffers from vehicle exhaust. In Cincinnati, over 164,000 cases of cardiovascular disease have been reported as a direct effect of contaminated air quality. The Southern Ohio Air Quality Agency has made efforts to reduce the idle use of vehicles and burning fuel, which has made small improvements since the early 2000’s.
The Iranian city of Kermanshah is packed with petrochemical factories, sugar refineries, and electrical manufacturing units that dispel dangerous dust and harmful waste into the air. Residents of Kermanshah are expected to stay indoors as often as they can to avoid the chronic breathing problems and dust storms that endanger your health. The World Health Organization has ranked Kermanshah the 6th city in the world with the worst air quality.
Soot, dust and aersol are the culprits of poor air quality in Phoenix. The American Lung Association has ranked Arizona’s capital among the most polluted the cities in the United States. The city’s residents can expect an increased risk for lung cancer, strokes and on-set asthma. Droughts, wildfires, and the desert heat make it almost impossible to clear the air of its pollutants.
Tehran is the most populated city in Iran, but also has the worst air quality in the country. Traffic congestion, sub-par gasoline, and Iran’s most frequented airport all contribute to the toxic chemicals found in the air. The Iranian government implements an awareness strategy that attempts to inform the residents of such dangers, and the ways they can prevent further air contamination.
The city of Doha can thank its air traffic and high rate of construction for its air pollution problems. Heavy metal and organic compounds in this city’s air creates an alarming level of toxic dust circulating, leaving the residents to directly inhale the cause of lung cancer and other related respiratory tract infections. The Qatar government is expected to improve pollution standards at the expectation of the World Health Organization by offering more public transportation and improving waste management.
The World Heath Organization has ranked Ahvaz as one of the top polluted cities in the world. The air quality in Ahvaz is 5 times worse than the average city’s due to the colossal amount of industrial pollution. The level of air pollution in the Iranian city puts its residents at risk for cancer and respiratory illness, but a quicker pace than most polluted cities would care to admit. Efforts from other countries such as Russia and Iraq have been made, but the fight for clean air is still going strong.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City has been labeled the as the one place in human history to go from the cleanest air to the dirtiest air in one generation. Poor quality fuel and high traffic volume mix with the tropical climate and create a dangerous smog that covers the city. Most residents experience inflammation of the heart and other adverse side effects, besides the usual respiratory illnesses that are associated with breathing polluted air everyday.
Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, has second hand import cars to blame for its air pollution. The vehicles run on adulterated petrol and emit poisonous, lead particles in the air on a daily basis. Immediate health threats include bronchitis and pneumonia, but specialists believe that cancer of the respiratory tract should be the community’s main concern.
Hanford, California’s air quality has been negatively affected by burning petroleum based fuels and wood. The climate only puts the city’s residents at greater health risks, with droughts and warm temperatures contributing to increased rates of asthma and lung disease. The city’s district has been pumping out new policies and regulations that limit wood and petroleum burning, but government’s regulations can’t compete with the weather impact.
Port Au Prince, Haiti
Port Au Prince has reached hazardous levels of air pollution since 2013. Trash burning, diesel generators, cooking with charcoal, and traffic congestion are all causes the dangerous air quality. Rates of heart disease and lung cancer have spiked and place young children in a vulnerable health position. There is no official plan in place that has effectively helped Haiti’s city regain clean air.
In Ludhiana City the air pollution results in decreased life expectancy. The Indian city is a prosperous one with many industrial talents, but the fall of such fortune costs people’s lives. The World Health Organization has labeled Ludhiana as “critically polluted”, with 70% of the pollution coming from automobile use and high traffic congestion.
Pittsburgh may be improving its air quality, but it still has a long way to go. The quality of air is still likely to cause pulmonary-related diseases and induce premature death, along with higher rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease. More than a quarter million people suffer from asthma in the Pennsylvania city, 50,000 of those residents children.
25,000 people have been affected by the air pollution in Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan. Uranium pollutes the air in this city, produced by a local plant built during the Soviet Union era. The most commonly seen health effect in this region is various forms of cancer, twice as many residents affected in this city than any other in Kyrgyzstan.
Visalia is the 3rd city from California to be named on our list. Located not too far from Bakersfield, Visalia is home to many coal-fired power plants that emit poisonous chemicals into the residents’ breathing air. The toxins that contaminate the air space in this city penetrate locals’ lungs, and increase their risk for lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The air in Karachi, Pakistan is heavily loaded with lead and cadmium as a result of poor road conditions and a high consumption of gasoline. Carbon monoxide also poses a great threat in this city, affecting residents’ metabolism, and blood levels. Pollutants that are a direct effect of vehicle exhaust and traffic jams are due for new regulations and limitations once the government sets them.
São Paulo Brazil
The air pollution in São Paulo has a high mortality rate, losing most of their residents to respiratory tract illnesses. The city is cluttered with vehicles and is plagued with constant traffic jams, allowing the carbon monoxide from the exhaust fumes to simmer in the air. With car ownership on the rise road congestion is bound to get worse, reducing the air quality and harming more people day after day.
Dhaka produces an estimated 230 million cases of respiratory disease annually. The air quality in Bangladesh is universally known to suffer greatly, but Dhaka releases 9.8 million tons of greenhouse gas into atmosphere every year, adding to the chemical disadvantage that cars and traffic have on the city’s air. The Clean Air and Sustainable Environment Project is the first program to hep Dhaka in its quest for clean air and safe mobility transport.
Cairo suffers from a severe air pollution problem. Open waste-burning, industrial factories and the city’s transportation contaminate the air with toxic chemicals such as soot, heavy metal compounds and hydrocarbons. The health risks for living in Cairo include both respiratory disease and cancer.
Birmingham, Alabama is a bustling southern city with a serious air pollution problem. Nitrogen oxides make it dangerous to breathe when outdoors, the toxic chemicals coming from car exhaust, coal-fired power plants, and industrial boilers. The residents in Birmingham are at risk of lung inflammation, weakened immune system, lung disease, and heart disease.
Sanandaj is known for its surplus of manufacturing industries that produce valuable products to support the country’s economy. The factories release toxic waste particles into the city’s air, then combine with other poisonous chemicals that come from transportation fuel and local power plants.
The air quality in Fresno is primarily dictated by smog, but carbon pollution from local power plants and manufacturing industries play a part in the pollution too. The rate of childhood asthma is higher in Fresno than other U.S. city, increasing allergies and nose congestion issues as well. Residents also fear the risk cardiac problems and chronic bronchitis, but premature death is is still a rising concern.
The air pollution in Beijing has reached dangerous levels for its residents. Most of China’s energy comes from burning fossil fuels and in Beijing the carbon emissions have entangled with the city’s climate change, making the smog unbearable and severely harmful. Risks of respiratory effects, premature mortality, heart disease, lung disease, and cardiopulmonary disease are at stake, but the government will continue to burn coal.
The air in Quetta, Pakistan holds many hazardous particles that can lead to lung and bladder cancer. The level of air quality has become fatal due to their unregulated smoke from industrial units and high rates of on-going construction. The continuing growth of the city is not monitored, without proper waste management and effective sewage systems.