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The following air pollution statistics will give you a better idea of the scope of the problem and where the worst pollution is coming from.

Statistic #1: A report by the World Health Organization found 90% of the world’s population lives in an area with unsafe levels of air pollution. (Worland, 2016)

Statistic #2: Around the globe, it’s estimated around 7 million people die prematurely each year from health issues related to air pollution. (Worland, 2016)

Statistic #3: 42% of Americans (or around 132 million people) live in counties where ground-level ozone and particulate matter make the air harmful to breathe, according to the American Lung Association. (Denworth, 2013)

Statistic #4: The human cost of air pollution varies widely from place to place:

Country Per capita deaths


Total deaths


1. Ukraine 120 54,507
2. China 76 1,032,833
3. Greece 45 5,008
4. U.S. 12 38.043
5. United Arab Emirates 7 655

(Time, 10-10-2016, p. 8)

Statistic #5: While China gets the most publicity for its toxic air, the top 5 most polluted cities in the world (based on particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter) are not in China. World Health Organization guidelines suggest no more than 10 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meter of air. The following top 5 cities scored well beyond that:

  1. A) Zabol, Iran: 217 micrograms
  2. B) Gwalior, India: 176 micrograms
  3. C) Allahabad, India: 170 micrograms
  4. D) Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: 156 micrograms
  5. E) Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia: 152 micrograms (Bacon, 11-20-2016)


Statistic #6: While China may not have the most polluted air, because of their population, they have the highest death toll in the world from polluted air. (Fagin, 2008)

Statistic #7: In New York City alone, air pollution particulate matter causes more than 3,000 deaths, 2,000 hospital admissions for lung and heart conditions, and around 6,000 asthma-related ER visits for children and adults each year. Ozone adds another 400 deaths, 850 hospital admissions and 4,500 E.R. visits. All told, air pollution is one of the most significant health risks to New Yorkers, contributing to around 6% of all deaths. (Millay-Stevens & Malte, 2015)

Statistic #8: Out of the top 10 most polluted U.S. cities, 7 of the ten are in California. (Koch, 4-27-2011)

Statistic #9: Unreported sources of toxins, such as exhaust from cars or chemicals emitted from smaller businesses, may account for more than 80% of the toxic chemicals released into the nation’s air. (Morrison & Heath, 2008)

Statistic #10: Levels of airborne lead have fallen 83% in the last 20 years after lead was removed from gasoline. (Denworth, 2013)

Statistic #11: The EPA’s Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 were able to cut sulfur emissions by 50% between 1990 and 2008, yet other emissions, such as nitrogen, are not falling as steeply.


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