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Air pollution around the world spiked to unhealthy levels last year, according to a report that found that more than 90 percent of cities failed to meet the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines in 2021, CNN reported.
The report released this week was compiled by IQAir, a Swiss pollution technology company that monitors air quality. It is the first major air quality report based on the WHO’s new annual pollution guidelines, which were updated in September.
The UN organizations recommended that the average yearly readings of PM2.5 – small and hazardous airborne particles – should not exceed 5 micrograms per cubic meter.
The findings showed that about 222 out of 6,745 cities around the world had average air quality that met the WHO’s guidelines. Among the territories that followed these guidelines were France’s New Caledonia, as well as the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
India, Pakistan and Bangladesh had the worst air pollution, exceeding the guidelines by at least 10 fold. The report also placed Bangladesh as the most polluted country, while the African nation of Chad – included for the first time in the report – came in second, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, China showed signs of progress as part of the country’s efforts to fight pollution: China fell to 22nd place in the PM2.5 in 2021 – a significant drop from the 14th place it ranked in 2020.
Even so, the IQAir report warned that the Amazon Rainforest – a major defender against climate change – emitted more carbon dioxide than it absorbed last year.
In its 2021 report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that in addition to decreasing the rate of global warming, reducing the use of fossil fuels would improve air quality and public health.