According to a study on global air quality released by Swiss company IQ Air, Pakistan has been the second-largest polluting country in the world in population density in areas of high rates of harmful airborne pollutant.
An overwhelming majority of cities with particularly high percentages of airborne pollutants in Pakistan were located in Punjab, the report claimed. Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Raiwind, Lahore, Muridke, and Sialkot featured on the index, with Peshawar also listed in most polluted cities.
How was the index calculated?
According to the Swiss firm, the 2019 World Air Quality Index was calculated using data gathered from real-time monitoring of air-quality by thousands of initiatives run by governments, communities, non-profits, and citizens in hundreds of cities around the world.
The index aggregated, validated and visualized real-time air-quality data of cities and assigned an average air quality score for every month to each city on the index. Based on these averages, an average score of each city for the year 2019 was calculated as well.
The score, based on the air concentrations of fine particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns (PM 2.5) or less in diameter, was also categorized keeping in view the World Health Organization standards on air quality. So the scores of each city were ranked on a non-number scale too.
This non-number scale ranked cities falling within WHO standards in terms of air quality to those having hazardous amounts of air pollutants. A PM 2.5 score of 0-12 was categorized as good, while a score of 250+ was listed as hazardous. A score of 55-100 was listed as unhealthy.
What are fine particulate matters?
Particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less in diameter – roughly 1/30 the width of a human hair – is the most dangerous type of airborne pollution. Microscopic flecks are small enough to enter the bloodstream via the respiratory system, leading to asthma, lung cancer and heart disease.
Most of the seven million premature deaths attributed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to air pollution are caused by PM 2.5 particles, which originate in sandstorms, agriculture, industry, wildfires and especially the burning of fossil fuels.
“Air pollution is the world’s leading environmental health threat,” said IQ Air CEO Frank Hammes. “Ninety percent of the global population is breathing unsafe air,” he noted in a press release, as the report on the air quality was released by his firm.