Countries & Cities With The Worst Outdoor Air Pollution & Indoor Air Pollution

The level of air pollution in a city is one of the factors that contributes to how sustainable or green a city is.

This is a quick guide outlining the countries and cities (and in some cases regions and continents) in the world with the worst:

ambient (outdoor) air pollution

household (indoor) air pollution


Summary – Countries and Cities With The Worst Air Pollution

Vehicle traffic and power generation are two activities that are commonly responsible for outdoor air pollution

When is comes to outdoor air pollution geographically, different regions, cities and countries are have different levels of air pollution

India, Pakistan, China, and parts of Africa feature heavily in the top regions with the cities with the worst outdoor air pollution.

Parts of South East Asia and The Middle East are also notable

11 of the 12 cities with the worst PM2.5 pollution are in India (so, it’s important to note that different geographic locations can have different levels of different air pollutants)

Air pollution levels can vary annually when different contributing factors change, and when cities make an effort to clean up air pollution

Africa, South East Asia, the Western Pacific, and Eastern Mediterranean might be some of the places with the worst indoor air pollution.

The Americas, Europe and Australia have the least indoor air pollution


Countries & Cities With The Worst Ambient (Outdoor) Air Pollution

Outdoor ambient air pollution occurs largely as a result of vehicle pollution, and power generation (burning fossil fuels), but it can be city or country specific when it comes to causes.

There’s two maps that outline the regions with the worst outside air pollution –, and (mainly focuses on particulate matter pollution levels)

Wikipedia also lists the top 500 cities in the world that have the most air pollution by particulate matter concentration (India, Pakistan, China, and parts of Africa feature in the top regions)


11 of the 12 cities with the worst PM2.5 pollution are in India. 

India’s pollution comes mainly from cars, cookstoves burning coal and wood, dust storms, and forest fires.

The country’s topography also serves to trap polluted air over some areas.

And while anti-pollution laws exist, they are weakly enforced.



China, and parts of the Middle East, Africa & South East Asia also have cities with poor outdoor air pollution levels.


Worldwide, ambient air pollution contributes to 7.6% of all deaths in 2016 (


Shifting to cleaner vehicle fuels, and cleaner power generation for industries/business and households are some of the keys to reducing outdoor air pollution.


Countries & Cities With The Worst Household (Indoor) Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution and the associated health effects occurs largely as a result of household exposure to smoke from dirty cookstoves and fuels.

In order, these are the regions of the world that have the most indoor air pollution related deaths per year:


South East Asia

Western Pacific

Eastern Mediterranean 


The Americas, Europe and Australia have the least.


In 2016, household air pollution was responsible for 3.8 million deaths, and 7.7% of the global mortality (


Shifting to cleaner and newer technology for heating, cooking and lighting in the above regions can severely decrease indoor air pollution i.e. move from open cooktops and open fires with smoke, to modern cooking appliances, electricity and modern electric lighting.









7. (solutions to air indoor pollution)

8. (solutions to outdoor air pollution)


Leave a Comment