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Map highlights countries with poorest air quality

A map produced by Nasa shows that areas of Europe, India and China are most at risk from fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution

A world map showing the number of premature deaths attributable to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has highlighted the countries that are most at risk from air pollution.

Produced by Nasa’s Earth Observatory, the map shows the model estimate of the average number of deaths per 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles) per year due to air pollution.

Nasa Earth Observatory map showing deaths attributable to particulate matter PM2.5 around the world

Nasa Earth Observatory map showing deaths attributable to particulate matter PM2.5 around the world

Researchers from the University of North Carolina who worked on the map used the difference in pollution levels between 1850 and 2000 as a measure of human-caused air pollution.

Dark brown areas of the map have more premature deaths than light brown areas, while blue areas have experienced an improvement in air quality relative to 1850 and a decline in premature deaths.

The UK appears to have both areas which are coloured blue and areas that are brown. And, the map shows, the majority of Europe as well as large parts of India and much of eastern China appear to have the highest levels of PM2.5.

According the researchers, this is likely due to increased industry and urbanisation in these areas since the start of the industrial revolution.

Meanwhile, south eastern areas of the United States appear to have declined relative to pre-industrial levels and are coloured blue, which the scientists attribute to a decline in local biomass burning over the last 160 years.

The map is based on calculations by the University of North Carolina researchers published earlier this year, which suggested that 2.1 million deaths around the world are attributable to PM2.5. It also found that a further 470,000 deaths per year are caused by ozone pollution (see airqualitynews.com story).

PM2.5 is commonly made up of very fine soot and dust particles in the air. More information on the map and research is available on the Nasa Earth Observatory website.

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