While Asia is known for its at times problematic air quality, pollution levels still vary widely across the continent and there are also a few positive examples.
According to the IQAir World Air Quality Report, Bangladesh and Pakistan had the poorest air quality in Asia and the world. Both countries were labeled as having unhealthy levels of air pollution even for the general population. Among the 106 countries and regional economies where sufficient data exists, eleven more received the designation of having unhealthy air for sensitive groups. Out of these, six were located in Asia. On the other hand, Japan and Singapore received the designation of good air quality and the Philippines only missed this label by 0.8 percentage points.
Out of the 28 Asian countries and regional economies included in the survey, the majority in fact received the designation of having moderate air quality. While restrictions tied to the coronavirus pandemic did lower air pollution levels across the world, the same number of countries worldwide – 13 – was labeled as having unhealthy air in 2019 and 2020. The number of countries having unhealthy air for the general population decreased from five to two, however. At the same time, the share of countries labeled as having good air quality rose from 26.5 percent in 2019 to 33 percent of all surveyed countries in 2020.
The least polluted city in Asia was Kyoto’s Minami Ward, while Calamba in the Philippines’ Laguna province was named as the least polluted Asian city outside of Japan. Hotan in Xinjiang, China, became Asia’s and the world’s most polluted city in 2020. Indian cities continued to dominate the ranking of the most polluted places on Earth, however, filling up ranks 2 to 14.
The concentration of particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5 particles) in the air is the most dangerous to humans because these particles can linger in the air for long periods of time and are easily inhaled, contributing to diseases like ischemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer.