The 14 most polluted cities in the world are all in one country

  • The 14 most polluted cities in the world are all located in India, according to the World Health Organisation.
  • The city of Kanpur topped the list, while Delhi and Agra also appeared in the top 10.
  • Living with air pollution is a harsh reality for Indians, many of whom have resorted to wearing surgical masks and protesting in the street for cleaner air.

The 14 most polluted cities in the world are all in India, according to a recent report from the World Health Organisation.

The northern town of Kanpur topped the list, which measured cities by their level of fine particulate matter in the air, known as PM 2.5. Over the period from 2010 to 2016, Kanpur registered 173 micrograms per cubic meter of PM 2.5 – dangerously higher than the 10 micrograms considered safe for humans.

Other cities on the list included Delhi, Lucknow, Agra, Jaipur, and Jodhpur.

Unfortunately for many Indians, living with air pollution is a harsh reality of everyday life. Many people have resorted to wearing surgical masks in the street, and cases of respiratory problems have increased in some towns.

Read on to see what life is like in some of the most polluted towns in the world:


India has many of the most polluted cities in the world. The World Health Organisation recently announced that the 14 most polluted cities are all in India.

Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Source: Times of India


In some cities, air pollution reduces visibility to 400 meters or less.

Source: The Indian Express


In many cities, locals have resorted to wearing surgical masks outside.

Allison Joyce/Getty ImagesPeople wear pollution masks amid heavy dust and smog November 7, 2016 in Delhi, India.

Delhi, India’s capital, was hit especially hard by pollution in 2016. A particularly thick cloud of smog shrouded the city for more than a week, forcing school cancellations and protests around the city.


Athletes like this visiting cricket player from Sri Lanka take precautions when they play in India. In 2017, two cricketers threw up on the field when Sri Lanka and India played a test match.

Source: Reuters


In 2017, the amount of hazardous particles in the air spiked to 75 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

Source: Associated Press


Experts compared the pollution in Delhi to smoking 44 cigarettes a day.

Source: CNN


Pollution has even helped cause the iconic Taj Mahal to turn yellow, Indian officials said.

Source: The Independent


One of the main sources of India’s air pollution is coal-burning factories.

Source: Reuters


Heavy vehicle traffic plays a part, too.

Source: Reuters


And in many towns, such as Kanpur, the most polluted city on the list, unpaved roads send thick plumes of dirt and dust into the air.

Source: Reuters


The pollution is having a debilitating effect on people’s health. The local hospital is overcrowded with patients with respiratory problems. One doctor told Reuters they admit a new lung cancer patient every week.

Source: Reuters


Thirty per cent of all premature deaths in India — more than 2.5 million a year — are caused by pollution, according to New Delhi’s Centre for Science and Environment.

Source: The Economic Times


Many local governments recognise the dangers of pollution, but only a handful have the resources to take action.

Source: Reuters


“This is truly a health emergency,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, an executive director at the Centre for Science and Environment.

Source: Associated Press

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