We've seen enough crazy weather in the last 12 months to no longer have to question whether or not global warming exists. But contrary to what some would have you believe, the US didn't single-handedly destroy the environment with our love of S.U.V.s and penchant for waste. The World Health Organization just conducted a study to see who the biggest polluters are across the globe.
The WHO study looked at air quality in 91 countries, measured by the amount of PM10 particles per cubic meter. PM10 particles are particles of 10 micrometers or less that can cause diseases and infections. According to the WHO, PM10 levels above 20 micrograms per cubic meter can cause health risks. The top ten most polluted countries have PM10 levels from six times to 14 times that level.Dayum! Which countries managed to hit those levels? And where does the U.S. fall in all of this? Flip through to find out.
10. Kuwait Pollution level: 123 ug/m3
Kuwait is one of four oil-rich Middle Eastern nations to make the list. It is also the fourth largest exporter of oil among OPEC countries, with the petroleum industry accounting for half of Kuwait’s GDP.
9. Nigeria Pollution level: 124 ug/m3
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous in the world with over 155 million people.
8. Iran Pollution level: 124 ug/m3
Iran is home to the world’s most polluted city — Ahvaz, which has three-times the average amount of pollution in the country. Ahvaz, known for its oil fields, is a heavily industrialized desert city of 1.3 million people.
7. United Arab Emirates Pollution level: 132 ug/m3
The United Arab Emirates is the world’s fourth biggest oil exporter and one of the most developed economies in the Middle East.
6. Egypt Pollution level: 138 ug/m3
Home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, Egypt is one of four African nations to make the list of the most polluted countries.
5. Saudi Arabia Pollution level: 143 ug/m3
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest producer and exporter of petroleum. It also the second largest oil producer and holds one-fifth of the world’s oil reserves.
4. Senegal Pollution level: 145 ug/m3
Inadequate urban planning amid rapid economic development over the past few decades has landed Senegal in the top five most polluted countries in the world.
3. Pakistan Pollution level: 198 ug/m3
Pakistan’s air pollution is nearly ten times higher than levels considered dangerous by the WHO. Political instability, corruption and a lack of government measures to curb carbon emissions have led to a cloak of thick smoke over major cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. In 2008, a government study revealed that every car in Pakistan, regardless of its age, generates 25 percent more carbon than one in the U.S. Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city has a capacity for only 700 vehicles per hour, but according to the study, there are more than 11,000 vehicles per hour on the roads. The city, which already has more than half the country’s 3.5 million vehicles, adds up to 400 new cars a day. Water pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste has also become a major problem in the country. In addition, Pakistan’s water supply is evaporating so quickly that it will become a “water-famine” country by the end of this decade, according to the country’s Centre for Research and Security Studies.
2. Botswana Pollution level: 216 ug/m3
It might seem strange that a country with a population of only 2 million people, and the largest proportion of land under conservation in the world, is the second most polluted nation in the world. But, that is the case of Botswana, 80 percent of which is covered by the Kalahari Desert. The country was one of the poorest nations in Africa at the time of its independence from Britain in 1966. Today, Botswana is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and the largest producer of diamonds. The country has transformed itself into a middle-income economy with an annual average growth rate of about 9 percent, according to The World Bank. Mineral revenues account for about 40 percent of government revenues. With growing wealth, the southern African nation has experienced widespread environmental damage. Wild fires and pollution from the mineral industry are the main sources of the country’s poor air quality. Copper smelting for example has been blamed for sulfur dioxide and nickel emissions.
1. Mongolia Pollution level: 279 ug/m3
Mongolia is the world’s most polluted country and also home to one of the world’s most polluted cities — Ulaanbaatar. The city of 1.2 million accounts for about 45 percent of Mongolia’s population. During the coldest months of the year — December to February — Ulaanbaatar’s horizon is completely hidden behind a thick grey-brown smoky haze. The country’s main sources of pollution are its traditional coal-fuelled stoves and boilers used for heating and cooking, as well as congested traffic and old cars. Heating is essential for the survival of its people for about eight months of year. The country uses everything from coal, wood to refuse, such as black tar-dipped bricks and old car tires to fuel stoves and boilers. Ulaanbaatar’s dry climate and severe windstorms further worsen its dangerous levels of airborne dust. Rapid urbanization has also been a major factor behind the country’s pollution problem. Ulaanbaatar’s population has expanded by 70 percent over the last 20 years with the city’s infrastructure unable to keep up with growth. With an air pollution level 14-times higher than the WHO’s standard threat level, the number of premature deaths, chronic bronchitis and respiratory related hospital admissions are on a rapid rise. The government has been trying to mitigate the problems by introducing measures such as cleaner coal-based fuel and modern stoves to address its pollution crisis.
Read more about each of these countries and their pollution status here