Purity Test: How clean is the air in your country?

There’s bad news for those who love clean air – chances are you aren’t breathing in any no matter where you are in the world.

A study by scientists in Australia and China found that more than 99 per cent of people around the world are exposed to levels of air pollution that the World Health Organization defines as unhealthy.

Worse, those living in Asia have to deal with some of the world’s worst air pollution, the study published in Lancet Planetary Health found.

The study discovered that just 0.001 per cent of the world’s population breathes in air that has ‘acceptable’ levels of particular matter 2.5 (PM2.5).

PM2.5 is fine particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 millionths of a meter.

Vehicle emissions, wildfire smoke and ash, pollution from biomass cook-stoves sulfate aerosols from power generation, and desert dust comprise PM2.5.

The WHO in 2021 set the 24-hour PM2.5 limit at 15 μg/m3 and the annual threshold at 5 μg/m3. Around the world, more than 70 per cent of days in 2019 exceeded the limit set by the WHO.

Independent report says the highest concentrations of PM2.5 (50 micrograms per cubic meter) were found in East Asia followed by South Asia (37 micrograms) and North Africa (30 micrograms).

There was a decrease, both annually and daily, in high levels of PM2.5 levels in Europe and North America

People in Australia and New Zealand faced the least threat from PM2.5, while other regions in Oceania and southern America were also had the lowest annual PM2.5 concentrations.

PM2.5 is responsible for more deaths and illnesses than all other environmental exposures combined. When PM gets into the lungs, it results in an inflammatory response.

Air pollution has long been linked to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. The new studies add to a growing body of evidence that air pollution also affects mental health.