New Air Pollution Ranking Highlights Threats of US Wildfires to Public Health

March 12, 2019 – New data compiled in the IQAir AirVisual 2018 World Air Quality Report and interactive world’s most polluted cities ranking reveals that US cities made up five of the 10 the most polluted in the world during August and November of 2018. The Camp Fire, the deadliest fire in California’s history, caused particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations in the San Francisco Bay Area to rise to more than five times the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO) and caused $16.5 billion in losses throughout the state.

Climate change is making the effects of air pollution worse by changing atmospheric conditions and amplifying wildfires. The key driver of climate change — burning fossil fuels — is also the main driver of air pollution globally.

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Greenpeace USA Climate Campaign Director Janet Redman said:

“This report underscores the urgency for our elected officials to act on climate change like no leader has before. Climate-fueled disasters are already wreaking havoc across the country, with the effects borne disproportionately by low-income communities and communities of color. Anything less than a just transition away from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy will fall short of stopping climate chaos. For the sake of public health and safety, phasing out fossil fuels must be at the top of the agenda for anyone running for office over the next two years.”

The report, produced by Greenpeace Southeast Asia produced in collaboration with IQAir, also highlights previous findings from the WHO that air pollution is estimated to claim 7 million lives globally in the next year and will cost the world’s economy nearly $225 billion.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Yeb Sano said:

“Air pollution steals our livelihoods and our futures, but we can change that. In addition to human lives lost, there’s an estimated global cost of $225 billion in lost labor and trillions in medical costs. This has enormous impacts on our health and on our wallets. We want this report to make people think about the air we breathe, because when we understand the impacts of air quality on our lives, we will act to protect what’s most important.”

Global findings from the report include:

  • In South Asia: out of 20 most polluted cities in the world, 18 are in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This includes previously unseen data from Pakistan’s first public monitoring network of sensors.
  • In Southeast Asia: Jakarta and Hanoi are Southeast Asia’s two most polluted cities. With Beijing’s air quality getting better, Jakarta risks overtaking China’s famously polluted capital soon.
  • In China: average concentrations in the cities in China fell by 12% from 2017 to 2018. Beijing ranks now as the 122nd most polluted city in the world in 2018.
  • Massive populations, including on continental Africa and South America, do not have adequate air quality measuring infrastructure.

Download the full report here and explore the interactive city ranking here.

Photos from last year’s wildfires in California are available here.

A WHO factsheet on the connection between climate change and air quality is available here.

www.greenpeace.org/usa