The 20 Cities With the Worst Air Pollution Worldwide

Air pollution fogs road in Delhi, India.
Air pollution fogs road in Delhi, India. / Allison Joyce/GettyImages

With wildfire season underway in the Northern Hemisphere, air quality has become a pertinent topic. More than 400 wildfires were raging in Canada in the first week of June 2023, resulting in a blanket of smoke rolling across the eastern U.S. According to the Swiss air monitoring company IQAir, New York City currently ranks among the world’s worst major cities for air quality, with particulate matter in the atmosphere measuring 14.5 times above the World Health Organization’s recommended baseline. If you’re wondering which cities qualify as the most air-polluted on Earth under normal circumstances, check out the list below. 

This list from is based on IQAir’s World Air Quality Report for 2022. Each city’s air quality was judged by the amount of fine particulate matter in the air exceeding 2.5 micrometers in diameter. At that size, particles can have a harmful impact on the lungs and other major organs when inhaled.

The city with the highest air pollution levels last year was Lahore in Pakistan. The average PM2.5 concentration there for 2022 was 97.4 μg/m³. For comparison, WHO recommends PM2.5 levels of 10 μg/m³ for safe and healthy breathing. 

Hotan, China, takes the second slot, followed by Bhiwadi, India, in third. India occupies six places in the top 10 alone. Like most other countries on this list, India’s industrial production has had disastrous consequences for its air quality.

You can read the full ranking below. To see how fine particulate matter is affecting the air outside your own home at any time, you can view an interactive map, courtesy of AirNow.

The World's 20 Most Air-Polluted Cities

  1. Lahore, Pakistan
  2. Hotan, China
  3. Bhiwadi, India
  4. Delhi, India
  5. Peshawar, Pakistan
  6. Darbhanga, India
  7. Asopur, India
  8. N’Djamena, Chad
  9. New Delhi, India
  10. Patna, India
  11. Ghaziabad, India
  12. Dharuhera, India
  13. Baghdad, Iraq
  14. Chapra, India
  15. Muzaffarnagar, India
  16. Faisalabad, Pakistan
  17. Greater Noida, India
  18. Bahadurgarh, India
  19. Faridabad, India
  20. Muzaffarpur, India