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15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

Consequences of air pollution are more prominent than ever, and these 15 cities with the cleanest air in the world effectively fight against air pollution.

Besides being a major contributor to global warming, studies have shown that air pollution has been connected with increased risks of developing kidney, bladder, colorectal and lung cancer. This study included 600,000 participants in the US and examined mortality from cancer at sites with long-term exposures to three pollutants, namely, PM 2.5, ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). This is a huge issue since levels of pollution are not coming down and millions of people are exposed to various pollutants.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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So, what city in the world has the worst air quality? Based on World Health Organization’s report, CBC News compiled a list of cities with most polluted air in the world, and according to this report, Zabol in Iran is the city with the worst air quality in the world. This city is often struck by lengthy storms called “120 days of wind” when pollution is 40 times more than normal. India is another country known for very polluted air. However, cities with the cleanest air in India include Madurai, Pondicherry, and Hassan. Pollution free city in the world doesn’t really exist but some of the cleanest air is found in Tasmania. Cape Grim is a remote place in north-west Tasmania where cleanest air in the world was measured. However, pollution is spreading even to these remote parts of the world and Cape Grim measurements also shown an increase in air pollution. It is good to mention that Australia in general, is among the countries with the cleanest air in the world.

Coming back to our list of cities with the cleanest air in the world, it comes as a no surprise that some of them are located in one of these 10 countries with the cleanest air in the world. According to measurements done by World Health Organization and our list of 16 Cleanest Countries in the World, cleanest air in the world in 2016 and 2017 was recorded in Iceland. Countries with vast territory, like the USA, often have both cities with the cleanest air and cities with most polluted air which depends mostly on the geographic position of the city. For example, Visalia-Porterville-Hanford metro area in California’s San Joaquin Valley, ranks as the most polluted area in the US, while Hawaii has very clean air and low levels of pollution. The proximity of industrial plants will contribute to higher pollution levels while cities that are more isolated often tend to have better air quality. Clean water is also a very important factor when judging the “cleanliness” of a certain place and our list of 15 Cities with Cleanest Tap Water in the US in 2017, will help you pinpoint cities with top-quality tap water in America.

Since this is a very broad topic and there are hundreds of thousands of cities around the world, I’ve decided to narrow down the starting point of this research. So, I started off with Insider Monkey’s list of cleanest countries in the world, I already mentioned (since statistics include air pollution as well), which can also be considered as the list of least polluted countries in the world. The next step was to check out the air quality in their largest cities. Furthermore, I used American Lung Association’s report on the state of the air for the year 2017, to check which cities from the United States can qualify for this list. Also, I advised The Telegraph’s article on cleanest capitals in the world and Traveler.com as well. Finally, I singled out a number of cities and ranked them according to the annual mean of particulate matter (PM 2.5) retrieved from Knoema.com which based its calculations on WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database. The 15 cities with the best results are on the following list. Furthermore, cities with the lower annual mean of PM 2.5 are placed higher.

So, shall we proceed?

15. Singapore

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 18

Singapore is the best example of a country which reached the very top of the list of cleanest countries in the world by legislation. Fines for throwing litter go up to $5,000 and the offender might be asked to wear a sign that reads: “I am a litter lout.” Although this country aims at reducing pollution to a minimum, occasional rise in air pollution places it at the bottom of our list of 15 cities with the cleanest air in the world.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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14. Zurich, Switzerland

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 14.30

Just as it was the case with the majority of other cities on this list, Zurich invested a lot into developing a very efficient public transport. In 2015, Vienna, Copenhagen, and Zurich were European cities with best clean air with Zurich ranked as number one. It is another example how a largely populated city can have low pollution levels if the government insists on working on eco-friendly solutions.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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13. Reykjavik, Iceland

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 10.87

In 2016 and 2017, Iceland was named as the country with the cleanest air in the world. Iceland has geothermal energy which is easy and cheap to use and much more environment-friendly than oil or coal used for heating. Since Iceland is scarcely populated (compared to other countries/cities on our list), typical urban pollution is consequently much smaller than that in densely populated areas. There are only three large-scale aluminum and ferrosilicon factories in Iceland which means that industrial pollution is also reduced to a minimum.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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12. Monaco

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 9.06

This city-state also enjoys the status of a country with high air quality and low concentration of PM 2.5 pollutant. Since 2009, local government started using electric cars in order to reduce air pollution. In 2014, an interactive car-share scheme called Mobee was announced, and tourists traveling to Monaco can rent an electric car. This environmentally friendly use of energy contributes to the reduction of CO2 emissions.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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11. Helsinki, Finland

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 8.97

Helsinki has pretty clean air for such a big and densely populated city. Gas emissions are reduced to a minimum thanks to the development of public transport, promotion of cycling and reduced traffic levels.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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10. Calgary, Canada

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 8.50

We are continuing our list of cities with the cleanest air in the world with Calgary which is ranked as the cleanest city in Canada. The Huffington Post’s writers expressed their skepticism for this title since Calgary, after all, is built around the oil industry. Logically, industrial facilities and clean air usually don’t go hand in hand, but Calgary seems to be an exception to the rule. Education-based efforts contributed to the higher awareness of dangers of air pollution, and the whole community is involved in keeping their city clean. Too Good to Waste is an initiative started by the City of Calgary in order to reduce the amount of waste put into landslides by separating and recycling reusable material like concrete, wood or asphalt.

9. Tallinn, Estonia

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 8.22

Around 25% of Tallinn, the number 9 on our list of cities with the cleanest air in the world, is covered by large green urban areas, which helps in maintaining the high quality of air. There are three national landscape protection areas, two conservation areas, and around 61 parks. This city also implemented free public transport for citizens of Tallinn in order to encourage people to use public transportation and reduce air pollution.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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8. Melbourne, Australia

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 7.70

It is interesting that all major cities in Australia have good air quality, including Melbourne which ranks 8th on our list of cities with the cleanest air in the world. Improvements of air quality started with the introduction of emission controls on cars and industry as well as removal of lead from petrol. Public transport is very organized with free city center tram route. Also, the city center has been free from private vehicles since 1990. Inhabitants of Melbourne are encouraged to use bicycles as means of transport, and there are around 416 miles of bike paths around the city. If you love biking, Melbourne is the right city for you. You can even bike to Canberra and enjoy the clean air on the way there.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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7. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 7.0

The Government of Canada is very dedicated to improving air quality, and they even have Clean Air Day. Environmentally-friendly activities are promoted all over the country in order to raise awareness of the importance of clean air and healthy living.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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6. Wellington, New Zealand

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 6.29

Due to the low population density and relative remoteness of other countries, New Zealand has very clean air. Proximity to the sea improves the air quality, as well. The government implemented various energy efficiency programs as well as waste management in order to reduce gas emissions and pollution. According to The Telegraph, Wellington is well known for its fresh air, and it has its place on the list of cities with the cleanest air in the world.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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5. Hobart, Tasmania

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 6.10

Tasmania, known as “Tassie” is an island state in Australia. As we previously mentioned, Cape Grim is a remote place in north-west Tasmania where cleanest air in the world was measured. Very clean air is the trait of its capital city as well. Abundant wildlife, remote location, and (almost) untouched nature make Tasmania the perfect place to visit. However, cleanest air in the world is probably Tasmania’s most precious resource. Although Cape Grim apparently measured the cleanest air in the world, this is not the case with Hobart. The annual mean of PM 2.5 is pretty low in Hobart but following cities on our list of 15 cities with the cleanest air in the world managed to score even lower annual mean of PM 2.5.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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4. Stockholm, Sweden

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 5.51

This most populous city in Nordic countries is leading the way when it comes to air quality and very low pollution in general. One of the reasons is that Stockholm is surrounded by nature. Green surface and lakes are everywhere, and in addition to wonderful nature, its inhabitants make sure to be as eco-friendly as possible. The fact that Sweden imports garbage for recycling tells you more than enough about this country’s eco-friendliness.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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3. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 4.27

Honolulu, Hawaii, ranks third on our list of cities with the cleanest air in the world. It is ranked among top cities with best air quality in the USA, as well. Lack of heavy industries and abundance of nature definitely contribute to low pollution levels and clean air. It is definitely another reason to choose Hawaii for your next vacation. In addition to heavenly beaches and landscape, you can enjoy clean air as well.

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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2. Farmington, New Mexico, USA

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 3.70

While Farmington, New Mexico, enjoys the cleanest air in the country, not far from this city Navajo communities are plagued by pollutants because of the San Juan Generating Station (coal plant). According to ALA report, Farmington tied the number one spot with Cheyenne, Wyoming, as the city with the cleanest air in the U.S. Cities were ranked according to annual particle pollution (PM  2.5).

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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1. Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA

PM 2.5 annual mean, ug/m3: 3.65

The capital of Wyoming is famous for its clean, mountain air. According to ALA report, Cheyenne tied the number one spot with Farmington, as the city with the cleanest air in the U.S. It is interesting that top three cities from our list of 15 cities with the cleanest air in the world are located in the USA. What else to say but: Great job!

15 Cities with the Cleanest Air in the World

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