Canada has some of the best air quality in the world: report
The Rocky Mountains as viewed from Canmore, Alta., on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. (Jeff McIntosh / The Canadian Press)
TORONTO -- Bangladesh has once again topped the list as the country with the worst air quality in the world, according to a new report describing air pollution as a “silent killer.” But Canadians can breathe easy with some of the cleanest air on Earth.
The latest data from the 2019 World Air Quality Report shows evidence of elevated air pollution levels in countries around the world thanks to wildfires and open-burning agricultural practices, and the rapid urbanization of cities, especially in Southeast Asia.
“While the new coronavirus is dominating international headlines, a silent killer is contributing to nearly 7 million more deaths a year: air pollution,” Frank Hammes, CEO of IQAir, a global air quality information and tech company that produces the yearly report.
Bangladesh, Pakistan and Mongolia rounded out the top three worst air quality offender.
Canada’s air quality, on the other hand, was rated relatively clean on a global scale, ranking 90th on the list of 98 countries in terms of poor air quality. Canada lands within the World Health Organization’s target.
Researchers from IQAir compiled the report using data from ground-monitoring stations that measure levels of fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5, which include pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon.
These particles are less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, or approximately 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, allowing them to penetrate deep into the lungs.
According to the World Health Organization, air pollution caused an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths globally in 2016, the organization’s most recent statistics, due to cardiovascular diseases, cancers and respiratory infections.
More than 90 per cent of those deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
Twenty-one out of the top 30 most polluted cities were located in India, with six of those cities ranking in the top ten alone.
According to the report, cities in India exceeded the WHO target for annual PM2.5 exposure by 500 per cent on average. However, the country’s national air pollution decreased by 20 per cent from 2018 to 2019.
In Southeast Asia, Jakarta and Hanoi overtook Beijing’s pollution levels for the first time.
The report also notes that wildfires and open burning agricultural practices had a major impact on the air quality in countries such as Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia and China.
Wildfires in Los Angeles also played a big role in that city’s air pollution index.