I wake up and suck a bowl of charred asbestos through a dirty bong. Well, that’s what it feels like most winter mornings when I open the door of the fourth-floor New Delhi apartment that I currently call home.
But according to World Health Organization data covering more than 1,000 cities in 91 countries, China’s capital is not the city that consistently endures the world’s worst air pollution. It doesn’t even come close.
One of the crucial measures of dangerous air pollution is the number of parts per million of particles smaller than 10 micrometers (PM10) wafting through the air. Beijing’s residents breathe in air with an average PM10 of 121, but millions of people have it worse.
The rankings, cobbled together using air monitoring data from a variety of sources between 2003 and 2010, suggest that the world’s worst air pollution floats over Ahwaz, a city in southwestern Iran where the average PM10 level hovers around 372. Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, ranks second, enduring a 279 PM10, far higher than the global average of 71.