China’s Most Polluted Cities – WHO Index

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Beijing is the world’s 10th most polluted capital city

Sept. 28 – Lanzhou has been ranked at the bottom among Chinese cities in a World Health Organization study of the world’s most air polluted cities. The report, issued by the WHO yesterday, focuses on air particles known as PM10s (microscopic vehicle and dust specks of less than 10 micrometers, in 121 micrograms per cubic meter).

Worryingly, WHO data was compiled from China’s own official sources, the China Statistical Yearbook – which is not noted for its overall accuracy and has a tendency to massage data in the State’s favor. The WHO recommends an upper limit of 20mcg for PM10s, which can cause serious respiratory problems including lung cancer.

Beijing, China’s capital city, ranked the fifth most polluted city in China, and was the world’s 10th most polluted capital, ranking lower than Lagos in Nigeria. This news comes despite government pledges to clean the city up for the long term following the Olympics just three years ago.

The top 20 most polluted Chinese cities ranked as follows:

The top 10 cleanest Chinese cities in terms of air quality are as follows:

The full report, covering all major cities across the globe, can be downloaded in spreadsheet format here.

Hong Kong, which was not included in the rankings, is known from its own published data to have 47 PM10s in 2009, ranking it second best in China after Haikou.

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9 responses to “China’s Most Polluted Cities – WHO Index”

  1. Pondering says:

    Beijing: due to its location, there is a natural presence of particles in the air, increasing the level of pollution. This the local gov for sure cannot control. Not to say they cannot do better, but it’s not correct to just dump it on them like that.

    Shanghai: It is not the least polluted city in China. The only way it can be measured like that is if they included all those distant districts and some islands on the sea or something.

    Either way, this list should be taken with a large grain of salt.

  2. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    @Pondering – you have a point, I agree. The worst capital city was Ulaan Baatar, in Mongolia. However I know the city very well – I have property there – and in winter, when everyone burns cheap Chinese coal bricks to keep warm, it’s truly appalling. But Spring, Summer & Autumn it’s fine. So some of the measurements may be influenced by the time of year they were taken, which is not identified. However, I live in Beijing, and flew in two days ago from Mumbai. The Beijing air was/is appalling, and if it were not for the fact my wife and daughter live there I would have refused to get off the plane. The air even tasted of chemicals. I love China but really something is going badly wrong in terms of air quality and Beijing is becoming close to unliveable. I’m relocating next year in fact, I can’t continue to breathe this crap. – Chris

  3. Hari says:

    Beijing has been horrible over the last times I am visiting. Tell us Mr. Chris, you’re piquing our interest! Where will you be relocating too? Back to India, somewhere else still in China or a different place!

  4. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    @Hari – I’d move to India in a heartbeat, but I have family considerations – my daughter is fifteen and we need to start thinking about University education, which we don’t want her to undergo in China. So Vancouver is looking likely, and we’ll set up Dezan Shira offices there and in Seattle and San Francisco. Then we can take advantage of the North American West coast, which has more potential for Chinese investment. Plus about 50% of our clients are from North America, so it makes sense for us to have a presence there. But it’s still under evaluation. If I had my way I’d move to Rishikesh! Thanks for asking – Chris

  5. James says:

    check out our website for up to date news on pollution.
    For China you have varying influences/
    Airborne sand and dust near the deserts, coal-coal-coal-coal, old unserviced diesel trucks, urban canyon design or rather lack thereof, NOx from trucks and cars add VOCs from paint and refrigerants add sunshine = Ozone which the lethal PM2.5 then stick to = photochemical smog.
    Near the sea you have some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and no ECA (emissions control area)
    Ships burn 4.5% sulphur bunker fuel vs parts per million for Ultra Low sulphur diesel

    PM2.5 is the killer and remains suspended in the air – same size as cigarette smoke
    PM10 drops to the ground

  6. Jackson says:

    Actually, Hong Kong IS included in the data. At 50, it ties for second.

  7. […] of 2.5 micrometers in diameter linked to lung and heart diseases. The World Health Organization has ranked Beijing as the 10th most polluted capital in the world and the fifth worst city in China. But […]

  8. Scott says:

    umm.. Shanghai 10th cleanest??? get the hell outta here…

  9. Shanghai’s coastal and this always helps keep particles down. Compare with Beijing for example, where the Gobi Desert lies just to the north, and its a far dirtier and dustier city as a result.
    However I do agree the ‘least polluted cities’ list seems weird, I was in Hohhot recently and it was horrible. But I guess we can only go on ‘official’ statistics. Seperating those from reality is an on-going battle. – Chris

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