Mapped: Air Pollution Levels Around the World in 2022
Mapped: Air Pollution Levels Around the World
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution leads to 7 million premature deaths every year.
Out of the six common air pollutants, particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or smaller in diameter, or PM2.5, is accepted as the most harmful to human health. This is due to its prevalence in the atmosphere and the broad range of adverse health effects associated with its exposure, such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases.
With that context in mind, this visualization uses IQAir’s World Air Quality Report to map out the 2022 average PM2.5 concentrations in select major cities around the globe, expressed in micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m³).
Understanding the WHO Air Pollution Guidelines
Did you know that in 2019, only 1% of the global population lived in places where WHO global air quality guidelines were met?
Designed to protect public health from the harmful effects of air pollution, the guidelines cover a range of air pollutants, including particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
The healthy limits for PM2.5 are set at an annual average of 0-5 μg/m³.
|WHO Classification||Annual Average PM2.5 Concentration (μg/m³)||% of countries within classification, 2022*|
|WHO Air Quality Guideline||0 - 5||9.9%|
|Interim Target 4||5.1 - 10||18.3%|
|Interim Target 3||10.1 - 15||19.8%|
|Interim Target 2||15.1 - 25||28.2%|
|Interim Target 1||25.1 - 35||9.9%|
|Exceeds Target Levels||35.1 - 50||7.6%|
|Exceeds Target Levels||> 50||6.1%|
*Percentages are calculated as a proportion of the 131 countries that had sufficient air quality data and were included in IQAir’s World Air Quality Report in 2022.
According to IQAir’s World Air Quality Report, only 13 countries or territories met the recommended concentration of PM2.5 in 2022. Among them were Australia, Finland, Puerto Rico, Iceland, Bermuda, and Guam.
Above this guideline, many countries fell within the four interim targets, while nearly 14% recorded air pollution levels that exceeded all target levels.
The Effects of Air Quality on Mortality
While it can be a little difficult to grasp what the above concentrations represent, thinking of them in terms of their effect on mortality can shed some light on their significance.
According to the WHO, non-accidental mortality rates multiply by 1.08 per 10 µg/m³ increase in PM2.5 concentration, but only up to 35 μg/m³. Above that, mortality growth rates may not be linear, resulting in many more deaths.
Here is an example to highlight what that means.
- Say that, for a population living within the WHO PM2.5 guideline, the non-accidental mortality rate is arbitrarily set to 100 deaths for a given period.
- If this area’s PM2.5 concentration goes up to 10 μg/m³, putting them at Interim Target 4, they would see 104 deaths in that same amount of time.
- At Interim Target 3, where their PM2.5 concentration would be 15 μg/m³, they would see 108 deaths.
- At Interim Target 2, they’d see 117.
- Finally, at Interim Target 1, they’d see 126.
Beyond Interim Target 1 (above 35 μg/m³), deaths would potentially grow much faster. As of 2022, around 14% of countries report levels above this threshold, including Chad, India, Pakistan, Qatar, and Nigeria.
The State of Air Pollution Around the World
While many cities in North America and Europe have seen steady and relatively lower PM2.5 concentrations during the last few years, many cities (especially those in Asia) have been making strides in lowering their air pollution levels.
Nonetheless, many of them still record PM2.5 concentrations that are more than six times the WHO guideline.
|City||2022 annual average PM2.5 concentration (μg/m³)||2018 annual average PM2.5 concentration (μg/m³)|
|🇪🇬 Cairo, Egypt||47.4||N/A|
|🇮🇳 Mumbai, India||46.7||58.6|
|🇦🇪 Dubai, UAE||43.7||55.3|
|🇮🇩 Jakarta, Indonesia||36.2||45.3|
|🇳🇬 Lagos, Nigeria||36.1||N/A|
|🇨🇳 Beijing, China||29.8||50.9|
|🇵🇪 Lima, Peru||25.6||28|
|🇲🇽 Mexico City, Mexico||22.1||19.7|
|🇨🇳 Guangzhou, China||21.3||33.2|
|🇵🇭 Manila, Philippines||14.6||N/A|
|🇦🇷 Buenos Aires, Argentina||14.2||12.4|
|🇸🇬 Singapore, Singapore||13.3||14.8|
|🇮🇹 Rome, Italy||12.6||N/A|
|🇰🇪 Nairobi, Kenya||11.5||N/A|
|🇷🇺 Moscow, Russia||10.8||10.1|
|🇧🇷 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil||10.6||N/A|
|🇺🇸 Los Angeles, USA||10.5||14.4|
|🇺🇸 New York, USA||9.9||N/A|
|🇬🇧 London, UK||9.6||12|
|🇯🇵 Tokyo, Japan||9.2||13.1|
|🇨🇦 Toronto, Canada||8.5||7.8|
|🇨🇦 Vancouver, Canada||7.6||N/A|
|🇳🇴 Oslo, Norway||6.9||8.2|
|🇿🇦 Cape Town, South Africa||6.7||N/A|
|🇺🇸 Miami, USA||6.4||7.8|
|🇦🇺 Perth, Australia||4.9||N/A|
|🇦🇺 Sydney, Australia||3.1||7.6|
Most parts of the world did not meet the annual WHO recommendation for clean and healthy air in 2022.
However, the cost of inaction toward cleaner air is very high. In addition to the millions of premature deaths each year, the global cost of health damages associated with air pollution currently sits at $8.1 trillion.
Unfortunately, things that are integral to our quality of life, such as industrial activities, transportation, energy production, and agricultural practices, are also the leading causes of air pollution around the world.
As such, a multi-faceted approach to lowering pollution is essential to protect lives, especially to benefit those already more vulnerable to poor air quality, such as kids and the elderly.
Visualizing the World’s Largest Steel-Producing Countries
China has dominated global steel production the past few decades, but how did the country get here, and is its production growth over?
The Largest Steel-Producing Countries: Visualized
Steel is a critical component of modern industry and economy, essential for the construction of buildings, automobiles, and many other appliances and infrastructure used in our daily lives.
This graphic uses data from the World Steel Association to visualize the world’s top steel-producing countries, and highlights China’s ascent to the top, as it now makes up more than half of the world’s steel production.
The State of Global Steel Production
Global steel production in 2022 reached 1,878 million tonnes, barely surpassing the pre-pandemic production of 1,875 million tonnes in 2019.
|Country||2022 Production (in million tonnes)||Annual Production Change||Global Share|
|🇺🇸 United States||80.5||-6.5%||4.3%|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||65.9||-6.9%||3.5%|
|Rest of World||201.0||-11.2%||10.7%|
2022’s steel production marked a significant reduction compared to the post-pandemic rebound of 1,960 million tonnes in 2021, with a year-over-year decline of 4.2%–the largest drop since 2009, and prior to that, 1991.
This decline was spread across many of the world’s top steel producers, with only three of the top fifteen countries, India, Iran, and Indonesia, increasing their yearly production. Most of the other top steel-producing countries saw annual production declines of more than 5%, with Turkey, Italy, Taiwan, and Vietnam’s production all declining by double digits.
Even the world’s top steel-producing nation, China, experienced a modest 2% decline, which due to the country’s large production amounted to a decline of 19.8 million tonnes, more than many other nations produce in a year.
Despite India, the world’s second-largest steel producer, increasing its production by 5.3%, the country’s output still amounts to just over one-tenth of the steel produced by China.
China’s Meteoric Rise in Steel Production
Although China dominates the world’s steel production with more than a 54% share today, this hasn’t always been the case.
In 1967, the World Steel Association’s first recorded year of steel production figures, China only produced an estimated 14 million tonnes, making up barely 3% of global output. At that time, the U.S. and the USSR were competing as the world’s top steel producers at 115 and 102 million tonnes respectively, followed by Japan at 62 million tonnes.
Almost three decades later in 1996, China had successively overtaken Russia, the U.S., and Japan to become the top steel-producing nation with 101 million tonnes of steel produced that year.
The early 2000s marked a period of rapid growth for China, with consistent double-digit percentage increases in steel production each year.
The Recent Decline in China’s Steel Production
Since the early 2000s, China’s average annual growth in steel production has slowed to 3.4% over the last decade (2013-2022), a considerable decline compared to the previous decade’s (2003-2012) 15.2% average annual growth rate.
The past couple of years have seen China’s steel production decline, with 2021 and 2022 marking the first time the country’s production fell for two consecutive years in a row.
While it’s unlikely China will relinquish its position as the top steel-producing nation anytime soon, it remains to be seen whether this recent decline marks the beginning of a new trend or just a brief deviation from the country’s consistent production growth.
Visualizing One Year of Sand, Gravel, and Stone Consumption in the U.S.
Aggregate minerals are a necessary part of maintaining our quality of life, but just how much do we rely on them each year?
One Year of Sand, Gravel, and Stone Consumption in the U.S.
Aggregate minerals, which include raw materials such as sand, gravel, and stone, are the building blocks of our cities and an integral part of the U.S. economy.
From being used to make the concrete that shapes our buildings to being the foundation of our roads, aggregates are necessary to maintain our quality of life. But just how much do we rely on these raw materials each year?
To explore the answer, this visualization from our sponsor Burgex uses forecast data from Mineralocity Aggregates to show how much crushed stone, sand, and gravel the U.S. is expected to consume in 2023.
Crushed stone is a versatile material that has a variety of uses in road and building construction, landscaping, and other industries. It is typically made from various types of rock, such as limestone, dolomite, and granite, that have been broken down into different sizes.
According to projections by Minerolocity Aggregates, the U.S. will consume 1.73 billion U.S. tons of crushed stone in 2023.
Taking its 100 lb/ft³ density into account, that is equivalent to a cube 3,259 feet high. That’s nearly double the height of the One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the U.S., standing at 1,776 feet as an homage to the country’s Declaration of Independence.
It’s also worth considering per capita usage to grasp the magnitude of aggregates we depend on in our daily lives. In 2023, each American is projected to account for the consumption of approximately 5.2 tons of crushed stone.
While crushed stone production is prevalent across the United States, here are some states that sold the most of this aggregate mineral in 2021.
|State||2021 Crushed Stone Sales in Thousands of U.S. Tons|
With 99% of all U.S. demand being met by domestic production in 2022, crushed stone is an integral part of the U.S. economy.
Sand and Gravel
Sand and gravel are essential natural resources that are widely used in construction and agriculture. They also have wide uses in industrial activities, such as glass manufacturing, foundries, and metal casting, as well as in recreational activities, such as volleyball courts, golf courses, and beaches.
In 2023, the U.S. is forecasted to consume 1.12 billion U.S. tons of sand and gravel. This is more than 3.3 tons per person.
Here are the top producers of sand and gravel in the United States.
|State||2021 Sand and Gravel Sales in Thousands of U.S. Tons|
Aggregate minerals are the building blocks of our modern lives.
With over 7,000 commercial aggregate companies operating in the U.S. (while contributing $31 billion to the economy in 2022), their importance to our lives and the economy should not be underestimated.
Mineralocity Aggregates is the leading platform for generating actionable aggregate market intelligence. Click here to learn more about Mineralocity Aggregates.
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