World leaders recently met in Mexico to discuss the pressing problems of pollution and global warming. They discussed the rising levels of the sea due to the melting polar ice caps but hey also try to look for common grounds on how we can address the very air that we breathe.

Around the world, people in big, heavily populated and polluted cities get sick and die of lung diseases. The rates are alarming add to the equation the increasing number of children being born with defects and the high statistics for cancer and heart ailments.

These cities are growing fast. But the real question is at what price? And can we really call it progress? Several studies conducted in the past years have pointed to the cities with the worst air condition:

Beijing, China

Every day, the people working or living in Beijing has to deal with a familiar harmful haze that engulfs the city. The air is so bad that schools do not have outdoor activities and the medical experts asking people who are suffering from respiratory illnesses to stay indoors.

Beijing’s air has the highest level of sulphur dioxide when experts measured it between 2000 and 2005. Sulfur dioxide is the byproduct when we burn fossil fuels. It is also the root cause of acid rain. The government had to ban around 50% of all cars passing by the roads of Beijing to improve the air quality back in 2008 when they hosted the Olympics. After the games, we know what happened.

New Delhi, India

The World Health Organization measured the presence of particulates in the air of New Delhi at nearly six times the acceptable value. About 2 of 5 individuals struggle with respiratory illnesses. According to some studies, the air pollution should be blamed on particles released from car exhausts and the dust disturbed on the overcrowded city streets.

Santiago, Chile

Back in 2008, experts measured the airborne particulates in the city at 444 micrograms/cubic meter while the normal should not go beyond 50. Santiago is also unfortunate to have high ground-level ozone based on WHO studies.

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City has one of the highest concentrations of major air pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Every day, residents have to deal with the hazardous smog that hugs the urbanscape.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

With the really bad quality of air in Ulaanbaatar comes the hard reality of high incidents of cardiovascular problems and chronic bronchitis. The amount of air pollutants are 14x higher than what is recommended by the experts. The city is almost blanketed by thick smog every day, and there are times when cars must turn on their headlamps even during the day.

Cairo, Egypt

Live in Cairo and it will be like smoking a pack of cigarettes per day because of dirty air which has among the highest level of pollutants according to WHO. Another problem being highlighted by expert is the exposure of the population to lead since Egypt does not use unleaded petrol. A black cloud is also a common picture in Cairo as farmers practice the burning of rice resulting to the poisonous substances to float into the air.

Chongqing, China

Chonqing is considered as among the most progressive cities of China. The growing industries and power plants though are burning coal in a very fast rate causing high levels of pollution. Nearly 5% of Chonqing children are suffering from asthma. Vehicle emissions are also contributing a great load of nitrogen oxide to worsen the condition.

Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou is home for around 12 million people but it is also one of the most polluted cities of the world. During some point, the amount of particulates in the air was worse than the level in Beijing. The industry in the region is booming and as the traffic volume grows, the number of people having shortness of breath, weakness, cough, and dizziness increases.



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