World’s 10 Most Polluted and Least Polluted Countries 

Pollution is a serious issue that affects us all on this planet. That’s why it’s so important that we do our part to help ensure future generations will inherit a planet worth living on. 

There are many polluting countries in the world, but we have noted only a few as being some of the worst offenders. Let’s discuss the world’s most polluted and least polluted countries and how to reduce pollution in them.

The Pollution Problem

8.7 million people worldwide die each year because of air pollution caused by coal, oil, and gas, says the World Health Organization (WHO). The same data shows that 99 percent of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution exceeds WHO guidelines air quality limits.

Polluted air causes more and more deaths from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections. 

How to Measure the World’s Most Polluted Countries

If you want to figure out which countries have the most pollution globally, we need a method in place. We opted to use the 2020 data from IQ Air, which estimates the quantity of PM 2.5 in each nation in micrograms divided by cubic meters (g/m3). Derived from 8,000 data, the report includes every country in the world and certain island territories.

What Policies and Social Behaviours Are the Driving Forces Behind Pollution Levels?

  • Countries with the most pollution are often countries that rely on dirty burning coal and oil for their energy.
  • One way to combat this level of pollution is by investing in renewable sources such as solar power. 
  • Another idea is to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, invest in public transportation, carpool, use a bicycle or even live in walkable cities to cut down on transport emissions.
  • Additionally, governments can invest in public policies that encourage and incentivize the use of efficient, sustainable methods of reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the European Union recently established a carbon trading scheme to help its economy reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • These are just some ways that the world’s most polluted countries are being pressured to change how they live in order to protect our planet from being polluted by humans.

World’s Most Polluted Countries

It’s not surprising that poorer, bigger countries are at the top of the list. There isn’t enough infrastructure in these countries to be innovative regarding air quality. Their large populations mean more cars on the road, many of which are second-hand and emit more emissions than newer vehicles.

It’s still possible for these countries to decrease pollution. However, they will have to invest and switch to more eco-friendly ways of getting power and invest in more efficient public transportation.

Here is the top 10 list of the Earth’s polluted countries. Data is from 2020.

1. Bangladesh (77.1 µg/m³)


Bangladesh is the most polluted country in the world. In Dhaka’s capital, the main rivers are so filthy that they are beyond salvation. Harmful toxins found in food also threaten public health.

2. Pakistan (59.0 µg/m³)


Pakistan is one of the world’s most polluted nations due primarily to emissions from vehicles and industries and crop burning.

3. India (51.9 µg/m³)


In 2019, 21 of the 30 worst polluted places were in India. The greatest contributors are cars, industries, power plants, building dust, trash burning, and millions of poor homes using harmful fuels like wood and excrement for cooking.

4. Mongolia (46.6 µg/m³)


Air pollution has the face of poverty in Mongolia. Mongolia is one of many urban centers that struggling with toxic pollution levels because of the extensive burning of raw coal in city districts and households, automotive exhaust, and chemical releases.

5. Afghanistan (46.5 µg/m³)


The wars in Afghanistan have had a major impact on the country’s environment. Military vehicles consume petroleum-based fuels at an alarming pace, with vehicles deployed in combat zones emitting thousands of tons of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide, and CO2.

6. Oman (44.4 µg/m³) 

Oman’s air pollution has reached dangerous levels, making it harmful to sensitive people. As common in Gulf countries, oil is the main responsible. The country relies almost solely on fossil fuels for transportation, industry, and electricity. Having constant dust storms doesn’t help solve the air pollution problem either.

7. Qatar (44.3 µg/m³) 

Despite being one of the world’s wealthiest countries due to having a huge oil reserve, Qatar is also one of the most polluted. The country’s air pollution has reached the point that it is unsafe for humans.

8. Kyrgyzstan (43.5 µg/m³) 

Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, already has one of the worst levels of air pollution in the world, and those numbers are just going to keep climbing. The primary contributors to air pollution in the major cities of Kyrgyzstan are the burning of waste in landfills, the usage of inefficient cars, and the burning of coal.

9. Indonesia (40.7 µg/m³)


Indonesia’s air pollution levels are three to four times higher than the World Health Organization recommends. Air pollution levels have reached unhealthy levels for those with diseases such as asthma or cardiovascular problem.

10. Bosnia and Herzegovina (40.6 µg/m³)

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, air pollution levels are significantly higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guidelines. Gender equality, social equity, and poverty are intricately linked to environmental issue.

Bangladesh is the most polluted country on Earth, with 77.1 g/m3 (down from 97.1 g/m3 in 2018 and 83.3 g/m3 in 2019). While its emissions have decreased significantly, as have those of every other country globally, this is not enough to remove the country from the top spot. Pakistan, India, Mongolia, and Afghanistan round up the top five most polluted nations globally.

World’s Least Polluted Countries

The world’s cleanest nations are all in Northern Europe: Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Estonia recorded 5.0-5.9g/m3 last 2020. This is expected because each country has consistently had less than 8.0g/m3 over the previous three years. 

The world’s most minor polluted places are all territories and, somewhat predictably, all islands with small populations. Puerto Rico, New Caledonia, and the US Virgin Islands all had the same level of 3.7 g/m3 in 2020, albeit it should be noted that Puerto Rico almost probably benefitted from the pandemic since the island recorded 10.2g/m3 the previous year.

Here is the top 10 list of Earth’s least polluted countries. Data is from 2020.

1. Puerto Rico (3.7 µg/m³)

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s air quality is good, and air pollution is minimal.

2. New Caledonia (3.7 µg/m³)

Only around 1.5 percent of coral reefs in the globe are in a pristine or near-pristine state, and one-third of those reefs are in New Caledonia.

3. U.S. Virgin Islands – 3.7 µg/m³

U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands is one of just three territories in the world that fulfill the air quality guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). If clean air is of the utmost importance to you, the U.S. Virgin Islands should be at the top of your list of potential places to go.

4. Sweden (5.0 µg/m³)


Sweden is the world’s most sustainable country on the planet, thanks to its use of renewable energy sources and minimal CO2 emissions, as well as social and governance policies, including labor engagement, education, and institutional framework.

5. Finland (5.0 µg/m³)

Finland is currently an emerging global leader in sustainable energy. The government invests in renewable energy, safeguards forests and lakes, and supports electric car usage.

6. Norway (5.7 µg/m³)

Norway is famous for its oil reserves, but the country is also emerging as a leader in sustainable energy 

7. Estonia – 5.9 µg/m³

The Estonian people have a deep respect for the natural world, which helps to make their nation one of the most environmentally friendly in the world. In terms of sustainability, Estonia now ranks fourth among all countries around the globe.

8. New Zealand (7.0 µg/m³) 

New Zealand

New Zealand’s air pollution is low, but several regions have exceptionally high levels of plastic pollution.

9. Iceland (7.2 µg/m³) 

Iceland is not only one of the least polluted countries globally, but it’s also home to UNESCO world heritage sites, including a plethora of geothermal and natural hot springs. 

10. Canada ( 7.3 µg/m³)


Canada is a world leader in sustainable development, with many programs and projects to help further that goal. More than 80% of its electricity comes from non-emitting sources such as wind and solar.

How to Reduce Pollution

There is no simple answer to this issue, but there are ways to reduce pollution levels. Colombia and Indonesia, for example, implemented public transportation programs to reduce emissions, and that’s starting to take effect.

The problem isn’t always the pollution in our air. It’s what pollution does to us. This is why we have so many health issues globally, and many people worldwide die from them. There are some organizations trying to fight this by improving air quality in cities worldwide, but they’re going to need a lot of help and more money if they want to make a significant dent. 

This means every citizen needs to do their part by taking simple steps such as planting trees, using public transportation, cycling or walking whenever possible, and reducing the trash we produce. We hope that everyone will follow suit and implement programs that will make their cities a lot more livable.

Going on a trip soon? This article discusses the world’s cleanest cities, the world’s most polluted cities, and U.S.’s cleanest cities

Thank you for reading!

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