INFOGRAPHIC: What is the (Particulate) Matter?

kade rechteroever

By Mayuresh Patole, Jyothi V. Oberoi, and Gaurav Gupta

The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recently updated database of ambient air pollution in cities caused quite a stir when its findings revealed that air quality in most cities of the world is getting progressively worse. Several news outlets ran reports that focused on the top 10 most polluted cities of the world – but the most interesting data from WHO’s latest release is not only which cities are at the top of the “most polluted” list, but also how pollution is affecting humans at the population level.

A new infographic from Dalberg examines the impact of particulate matter (PM) – tiny particles suspended in the earth’s atmosphere – on human life.

Why should we care about PM? While PM is not the only air pollutant, it is a key indicator of long-term air quality and health risks. In fact, our lives could depend on it; the WHO estimates that “reducing annual average PM10 concentrations from levels of 70 micrograms, common in many developing cities, to the WHO guideline level of 20 micrograms, could reduce air pollution-related deaths by around 15%.” (PM10 particles are smaller than 10 microns in diameter).

Our analysis of the WHO’s latest data suggests that, of the 100 most polluted cities in the world, the human impact of PM pollution is greater in the top 20 cities than in the next 80 cities combined. PM pollution in these top 20 cities (all of which are located in developing countries) is also responsible for over half of the overall PM pollution impact on human life.

Take a look at the infographic, “What is the (Particulate) Matter?” below to learn more about how PM pollution is affecting humans and how some countries are taking action to reduce PM levels:


Particulate Matter Infographic Dalberg

Data note: According to WHO, “many cities in the world, including some expected to be among the most polluted, do not collect information or report on its ambient air quality.” Primary sources of data for the WHO ambient air quality database include publicly available national/subnational reports and web sites, regional networks such as the Asian Clean Air Initiative and the European Airbase, and selected publications.

posted on D. Blog by Sara Wallace on 27-06-2014