MUMBAI, India – New statistics released Thursday underscored what many visitors to India already know: This country has the most polluted cities in the world.
Of the 50 urban areas with the worst ambient air pollution, 22 are in India, according to a World Health Organization database.
India’s capital, New Dehli, ranked as the most polluted mega-city in the world, and the 14th most polluted of all 3,000 cities and towns included in the ranking.
The country is also home to the second most polluted city in the world: Gwalior, in central India. It is topped only by Zabol, in Iran, which often suffers blinding dust storms.
The cities were ranked by the daily average concentration of PM2.5, particles in the air less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which are believed to pose the gravest health risks, because they can burrow deep in a person’s lungs. The WHO used statistics reported by governments or local agencies and included only cities where regular air quality readings were available.
Zabol had an average daily PM2.5 reading of 217; Gwalior’s was 176. The landlocked Indian cities of Allabahad, Patna, Raipur and Ludhiana all had average readings of 122 or higher.
The U.S. city with the most serious air pollution – Visalia, California – had an average reading of 18, too low to even qualify as one of the 1,000 dirtiest cities.
Beijing, often associated with foul air, ranked 59th in the database.
A study published this month in the Geophysical Research Letters journal found that outdoor air pollution was contributing to more than half a million premature deaths each year in India and costing the economy hundreds of billions of dollars.
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