Air pollution a global problem

Screenshot of map of air pollution levels in 2000 by country. (The Atlantic / / Angel Hsu and Alisa Zomer)

Images of Beijing and Shanghai’s all-encompassing smog are notorious at this point, but air pollution problems are hardly exclusive to China. Paris officials are trying to curb smog by restricting driving based on license plate numbers. Earlier this year, London experienced record levels of pollution, and experts believe that as climate change worsens on a global scale, so too will air pollution.

In March, the World Health Organization released its latest report on the effect air pollution has on global health. According to WHO estimates, in 2012:

  • Outdoor air pollution caused 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide, 88 percent of which were in low or middle-income countries.
  • Of the premature deaths attributed to outdoor air pollution, only 6 percent were related to lung cancer. Rather, 80 percent of the deaths were related to strokes and coronary artery disease.
  • More than 4 million people died prematurely from indoor air pollution, which is primarily caused by poor ventilation and the use of biomass fuels and coal for heating and cooking.

This interactive map from The Atlantic shows global air pollution levels for the years 2000 through 2012.