Breathing Easy: A Global Survey of Air Quality in Major Cities

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Posted 7 months ago

Clean air is a fundamental cornerstone of a healthy and thriving society, with far-reaching implications for human well-being and the environment. It’s about more health; clean air is about social justice and equality.

A recent study from HouseFresh looked at which cities are providing that precious clean air to their residents and which cities need to do better. Using data collected from the World Air Quality Index database, it ranked all the major global cities based on how many good air days they get per year.

Here’s a round-up of the results

10 Cities with the Most Good Air Days

There are five cities in Australia where citizens enjoy good air days all year round. They include Perth, Sydney, and Adelaide.

Auckland, New Zealand, is another Down Under city with excellent air quality. The large metropolitan city on the north of the island has good air to breathe every day of the year.

So why is the air so good in this part of the world?

Both countries have low population density, vast open spaces, and strict environmental regulations, which play a significant role in maintaining pristine air quality. Their extensive natural areas, including forests and wilderness, also help to filter pollutants and keep the air clean.

Cities with the Most Bad Air Days

The list of cities with the most bad air days is dominated by those in the developing world. Sadly for the people living there, there are nine cities where there isn’t a single good air day all year.

They include Baghdad, Uganda’s capital, Kampala, and two Iranian cities, Isfahan and Tehran.

Four Indian cities made it into the list of places with zero good air days per year. They are Patna, Jaipur, Chandigarh, and Gandhinagar. The air quality across India is poor due to vehicular emissions, industrial pollution, and a combination of rapid urbanisation and high population density.

Europe’s City with the Most Clean Air Days

Zurich and Reykjavik are the only two European cities where the air is clean every single day. It’s one of the main factors why both cities are home to the happiest and healthiest people in the world. The Swiss capital and the Icelandic city regularly appear at the top of global health and well-being charts.

The citizens of Pristina in Kosovo can only breathe clean air for 27 days of the year. Again, it comes down to industrialisation. Although, in this case, it’s more like a lack of industrial regulation. City officials are notoriously lenient on the businesses pumping pollutants into the atmosphere.

Air Quality in US Cities

The air is always clean in Honolulu.

Honolulu’s excellent air quality is linked to the city’s proximity to acres of lush vegetation and greenery. The nearby ocean brings fresh, clean sea air, while prevailing trade winds carry away pollutants. The city has also done a great job transitioning to clean energy sources over the last decade.

Los Angeles sits at the bottom of the US clean air scale. The “LA smog,” is a notorious air pollution issue that has affected the city for decades. Characterised by a visible haze hanging over the city, it’s a collection of automobile emissions and industrial pollution. The city’s unique geography doesn’t help; LA is surrounded by mountains that trap pollutants in the basin.