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Which country has the cleanest air in the world?


The countries with the cleanest air in the world have been ranked in a new report. We take a look at the results

The island nation of the Bahamas has the world’s cleanest air according to the latest World Air Quality Report by IQAir. The report ranks 98 countries by the level of fine particulate matter present in the air.

Air pollution continues to pose one of the biggest threats to human health, causing the death of seven million people every year. Billions more suffer the effects of poor air quality. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 92% of the global population breathes toxic air.

Stefan Ugljevarevic/Shutterstock The Bahamas have the cleanest air in the world

The Bahamas have the cleanest air in the world, followed by the territory of the US Virgin Islands, then Iceland, Finland and Estonia. At the other end of the spectrum, Bangladesh has the worst air quality followed by Pakistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan and India respectively.

Air Quality Index

The report analyses results from over 60,000 monitoring stations located across the globe, making it the world’s largest centralised platform for measuring air quality. It also draws on data collected from thousands of clean air initiatives administered by governments, non-profit organisations, citizens, communities and private companies.

Map of the world featuring the results
IQAir The countries in blue are the only ones to pass the WHO’s guidelines

The report focuses on PM2.5 concentrations as this is the pollutant widely regarded as most harmful to human health. PM2.5 is defined as ambient airborne particles measuring up to 2.5 microns in size. A micron (or micrometre) is one-millionth of a metre or one-thousandth of a millimetre.

Its microscopic size allows the particles to enter the bloodstream via the respiratory system and travel through the body, causing a range of health problems including asthma, lung cancer and heart disease. Air pollution is also associated with low birth weight, increased acute respiratory infections and stroke.

The WHO’s Air Quality Guideline value for PM2.5 exposure – which has been proven to be free of health impacts – is 10µg/m³ or 10 micrograms of air pollutant per cubic meter of air. There are only 18 countries, out of the 98 assessed, which pass these guidelines.

most polluted cities

The report also produces a ranking for 355 of the world’s cities. Delhi famously hit the headlines in 2020 when the city witnessed drastically improved air quality when restrictions were introduced due to the pandemic. However, the city soon returned to “normal” when pollution hit “emergency” levels in November 2020 and the city became enveloped in thick toxic smog.

The world’s 30 most polluted cities are all located in Asia, with 21 in India alone and 27 in South Asia. Ghaziabad in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is the world’s most polluted city while Delhi is the world’s most polluted capital.

Delhi in thick smog
Amit kg/Shutterstock Delhi is the world’s most polluted capital city

Most polluted cities

  1. Ghaziabad, India
  2. Hotan, China
  3. Gujranwala, Pakistan
  4. Faisalabad, Pakistan
  5. Delhi, India
  6. Noida, India
  7. Gurugram, India
  8. Raiwind, Pakistan
  9. Greater Noida, India
  10. Bandhwari, India

Most polluted capital cities

  1. Delhi, India
  2. Dhaka, Bangladesh
  3. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
  4. Kabul, Afghanistan
  5. Jakarta, Indonesia
  6. Kathmandu, Nepal
  7. Hanoi, Vietnam
  8. Manama, Bahrain
  9. Beijing, China
  10. Tashkent, Uzbekistan

COUNTRY RANKING: Cleanest air in the world

The World Air Quality Report ranks 98 countries and territories. States that have been omitted lacked sufficient ground-based PM2.5 monitoring stations.

Rank Country Ave. PM2.5
1 Bahamas 3.3
2 US Virgin Islands 3.5
3 Iceland 5.6
4 Finland 5.6
5 Estonia 6.2
6 Sweden 6.6
7 Norway 6.9
8 New Zealand 7.5
9 Canada 7.7
10 Australia 8.0
11 Ecuador 8.6
12 USA 9.0
13 Portugal 9.3
14 Malta 9.4
15 Denmark 9.6
16 Luxembourg 9.6
17 Spain 9.7
18 Russia 9.9
19 Puerto Rico 10.2
20 Costa Rica 10.4
21 UK 10.5
22 Ireland 10.6
23 Switzerland 10.9
24 Netherlands 10.9
25 Germany 11.0
26 Japan 11.4
27 Austria 12.2
28 France 12.3
29 Belgium 12.5
30 Latvia 13.3
31 Czech Rep. 14.5
32 Lithuania 14.5
33 Hungary 14.6
34 Argentina 14.6
35 Colombia 14.6
36 Brazil 15.8
37 Angola 15.9
38 Slovakia 16.1
39 Ukraine 16.6
40 Italy 17.1
41 Taiwan 17.2
42 Philippines 17.6
43 Egypt 18.0
44 Jordan 18.3
45 Romania 18.3
46 Poland 18.7
47 Singapore 19.0
48 Croatia 19.1
49 Malaysia 19.4
50 Cyprus 19.7
51 Mexico 20.0
52 Georgia 20.1
53 Ethiopia 20.1
54 Guatemala 20.2
55 Hong Kong SAR 20.3
56 Turkey 20.6
57 Israel 20.8
58 Cambodia 21.1
59 Algeria 21.2
60 Nigeria 21.4
61 South Africa 21.6
62 Saudi Arabia 22.1
63 Greece 22.5
64 Chile 22.6
65 Laos 23.1
66 Peru 23.3
67 Serbia 23.3
68 Macao SAR 23.5
69 Kosovo 23.5
70 Kazakhstan 23.6
71 Thailand 24.3
72 Iran 24.3
73 South Korea 24.8
74 Sri Lanka 25.2
75 Bulgaria 25.5
76 Armenia 25.5
77 Uganda 29.1
78 Ghana 30.3
79 Myanmar 31.0
80 DR Congo 32.1
81 Syria 32.2
82 North Macedonia 32.4
83 Kyrgyzstan 33.2
84 Vietnam 34.1
85 Bosnia & Herz. 34.6
86 Kuwait 38.3
87 UAE 38.9
88 China 39.1
89 Iraq 39.6
90 Uzbekistan 41.2
91 Nepal 44.5
92 Bahrain 46.8
93 Indonesia 51.7
94 India 58.1
95 Afghanistan 58.8
96 Mongolia 62.0
97 Pakistan 65.8
98 Bangladesh 83.3


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Lead image: Blue Planet Studio/Shutterstock



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