Imagine living in a city where you are advised to stay indoors, if at all possible, for the simple reason that the air outside is highly contaminated and could leave you with a variety of health problems, including asthma, lung cancer, and more.
Sadly, this is the state in many of the world’s most polluted cities. To make things worse, because most of the most polluted cities are also some of the poorest places on earth — many people are often unable to seek adequate treatment because they can’t afford it.
When people think of the most polluted cities, they often think of enormous ones like Beijing in China, or Delhi in India. But despite being hugely polluted, those two do not even make the top ten list.
Let’s look at the ten most polluted cities in the world as ranked by the World Health Organisation, counting down to number one.
10 Kanpur, India
Located in northern India, Kanpur is famous for its leather industry. However, while the leather industry benefits the city’s economy, it is also a significant source of hazardous pollution.
There are over 350 leather tanneries in Kanpur, which are known for pumping out harmful fumes and releasing untreated waste into the Ganges River and groundwater sources.
Frequently, these pollutants include toxic levels of metals including chromium, arsenic, and mercury. Chromium is particularly harmful and can cause liver failure, premature dementia, lung cancer, and kidney damage.
In addition, air pollution is a major problem due to the industrial sector, road dust, and vehicle emission.
9 Yasuj, Iran
Located in the mountains of southwestern Iran, Yasuj is home to a coal-burning power plant and a sugar processing plant. The two factories release a significant amount of emissions into the air resulting in extensive air pollution.
Instead of looking for a way to decrease the air pollution, the town is currently planning to open a refinery that will produce furnace oil, gas oil, asphalt, gasoline, kerosene, and liquefied gas.
This will, without a doubt, only increase the number of residents suffering from respiratory illnesses including asthma, lung cancer, and lower respiratory infections.
Recently, there has been an increase in cardiac problems in the city, which may or may not be related to the poor air quality.
8 Gaborone, Botswana
Located in southern Africa, there are three major sources of industrial pollution in Gaborone. They include a paint factory, a brewery, and a chemical plant.
Wastewater, including employees’ sanitary waste, process wastes, and water from heating and air units are discharged into the environment through public sewer lines.
The paint and chemical industries are thought to be a source of lead poisoning, which leaks into the soil.
Additionally, the soil in Gaborone contains large amounts of heavy metals.
Gaborone is the only city outside of the Middle East and Asia that made the list.
7 Peshawar, Pakistan
Air pollution is a source of significant concern in Peshawar. The main sources include industrial emissions, fumes from the brick kiln factories, extensive burning of solid waste, and vehicular emissions.
Noise pollution is also a problem in Peshawar, as it exceeds the normally permitted 85 decibels threshold. The noise is created from planes and trains with ineffective silencers.
Additionally, almost 40 per cent of the solid waste produced in the city collects in the street, emitting pollutants into the air and making it unhealthy to breathe.
Finally, water is usually unsafe for human consumption due to chemical and bacterial contamination.
6 Kermanshah, Iran
Unfortunately, the air is so polluted in Kermanshah that residents of this Middle Eastern city are encouraged to spend most of their time indoors, if at all possible.
This is partially due to the 256 manufacturing units within the city, including sugar refineries, petrochemicals factories, and factories that produce electrical equipment.
However, the dust storms that regularly rage through the city are the biggest problem. The dust storms are so bad that it is often impossible to see anything that is more than 300ft in front of you.
The number of hospitalizations resulting from breathing problems continues to rise every year.
5 Quetta, Pakistan
Air pollution is a serious problem in Quetta due to natural and man made factors.
Vehicle emissions are one of the main causes. This is because most of the vehicles in the overcrowded city are poorly maintained and use sub-standard fuel.
Additionally, the waste emitted from factories is not regulated, only compounding the problem. Waste materials are frequently burned as well and are known to flood the air with hazardous gases.
Recently, the air pollution in this South Asian city was considered to be at potentially fatal levels. Many people feel this is the result of protests held by Shiite Muslims in 2011. During this time, huge numbers of tires were burned throughout the city.
4 Ludhiana, India
Air pollution is the primary cause of concern in Ludhiana.
Around 70 per cent of the pollution is believed to be caused by automobiles that are in mediocre condition and use the lowest quality gasoline available. There are no regulations in place regarding vehicle emissions.
Although Ludhiana is on the list of most polluted cities in the world every year, the city does nothing to remedy the situation. Instead, they continue to ignore the problem and put more and more vehicles on the roads every day.
As a result, respiratory problems, such as asthma and bronchitis, are quite common.
In recent years, skin diseases have also become a problem. This is likely due to the pollution combined with the scorching sun.
3 Sanandaj, Iran
Located close to Iraq, Sanandaj is home to a large manufacturing industry that produces everything from metalwork to cotton, woodwork, and carpets. This results in large amounts of waste emissions being released into the air.
It should come as no surprise that air pollution is the primary concern in this Middle Eastern town. Another cause of air pollution is the severe dust storms that constantly blow into the town from Iraq.
Rapid industrialization combined with the use of low quality power plants and transportation fuels will only continue to make the problem worse in the coming years.
2 Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Located in Central Asia, Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar is a large city has some of the most “harmful dust” in the world according to the World Health Organization.
This is due to open soil surfaces, unpaved roads, dust from the desert, lack of vegetation, and ash and emissions from power plants, vehicles, and boilers.
As a result, residents, particularly young children, are beginning to suffer from unfamiliar illnesses that are believed to be the result of the air pollution.
To try and combat the problem, the World Bank has initiated the Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project to help replace stoves and boilers with more efficient models, but only time will tell what effect, if any, it will have.
1 Ahvaz, Iran
The significant levels of air pollution in this city has taken its toll on those unlucky enough to live here. Life expectancy is the lowest in Iran, and a large number of residents suffer from respiratory illnesses, including lung cancer.
While the local government blames the US by saying the pollution is the result of dust from depleted uranium bombs dropped during the Iraq War, others do not believe this to be true.
There is irreversible ecological destruction due to rivers being diverted, marshes being drained, and the emissions from plants that manufacture paper, sugar, oil, petrochemicals, oil, and metals.
Not only do residents suffer, but wildlife does as well. In fact, many mammals and birds face extinction due to birth, neurological, and respiratory disorders.