Shocking Air Pollution Facts

Recent air pollution facts and data from the World Health Organization show that 90 percent of people breathe highly contaminated air.

That makes air pollution a big problem.

Air pollution is a terrifying problem.

I wrote this post to highlight key air pollution facts, the causes and effects. 

But before we talk about causes, effects, and solutions, let’s look at the following 42 shocking air purifier facts. 



42 Shocking Air Pollution Facts (Some are Terrifying!)


Let’s jump right in.


Air Pollution Fact #1


Outdoor and household air population combined cause about 7,000,000 deaths each year. Most of the deaths happen in developing countries.


Air Pollution Fact #2


In 2016 alone, outdoor air pollution claimed 4.2 million lives.


Air Pollution Fact #3


In 2016, household air pollution claimed 3.8 million lives. Compared this figure to the one above. 

It appears to be at odds with what the EPA says. The EPA claims that indoor air is more polluted than the air outside.


Air Pollution Fact #4


Of the 4.2 million premature deaths caused by outdoor air pollution in 2016, 91% happened in low and medium-income countries.


Air Pollution Fact #5


Roughly 3 billion people (42%) globally aren’t accessing clean cooking solutions.


Air Pollution Fact #6


Cooking using unclean technologies and fuels causes most of the household pollution seen.


Air Pollution Fact #7


Air pollution is a huge risk factor for non-communicable diseases including heart disease, stroke, COPD, and lung cancer.


Air Pollution Fact #8


Roughly 92% of the world’s inhabitants dwell in locations whose air pollution levels exceed what the WHO considers safe levels.


Air Pollution Fact #9


High-income countries see the lowest air pollution levels. People in Canada and the U.S. see some of the lowest air pollution levels globally.

But aren’t high-income economies the ones with the most industries? You bet. But governments in these regions are working harder than those in other places to address air pollution.


Air Pollution Fact# 10


More than 262,000,000 Canadians and Americans (80%) breathe air that meets WHO guidelines on particulate matter. Things aren’t perfect yet, but they’re not that bad either.


Air Pollution Fact #11


Air pollution is the most dangerous type of pollution there is.


Air Pollution Fact #12


Air pollution stands as the 4th most dangerous threat to human health.


Air pollution Fact #13


It’s “safer” to drink unsafe water than to breathe contaminated air!

Available data shows that water pollution has been improving while air pollution has been worsening over time.


Air pollution Fact #14


According to the WHO, air pollution claimed 6,500,000 lives in 2012.

That was more deaths than occurred due to these 3 things combined: Tuberculosis, road accidents, and HIV AIDS!


Air Pollution Fact #15


50% of all pneumonia deaths in children aged 5 years and below result from air pollution.

Do you really want to continue smoking in the house?


Air Pollution Fact #16


These 5 pollutants worry public health experts most: Particulate Matter (PM), Nitrogen dioxide, Ozone (O3), Carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide (SO2).


Air Pollution Fact #17


Smoke ranks high among the most dangerous types of pollution. Those constant wildfires in your state should worry you.  


Air Pollution Fact #18


Outdoor air pollution, also called ambient air pollution, causes 29% of all lung cancer-related deaths.


Air Pollution Fact #19


24% of all stroke deaths are directly linked to outdoor air pollution.


Air Pollution Fact #20


25% of all deaths from ischemic heart disease are traceable to outdoor air pollution.


Air Pollution Fact #21


Outdoor air pollution originates a whole 17% of all deaths from acute lower respiratory infections.


Air Pollution Fact # 22


Ground-level ozone pollution damages $11 billion worth of crops worldwide every year.


Air Pollution Fact #23


Air pollution in the U.S. reduces crop production by up to 10% every year. That’s a loss of more than $5 billion annually.

But the number seems to be at odds with the fact that the U.S. is among the least polluted countries worldwide. But then, the numbers are at best estimates.


Air Pollution Fact #24


In poorly ventilated spaces, smoke particles can be 100 times higher than what’s considered acceptable levels of fine particles.


Air Pollution Fact #25


Indoor air pollution accounts for 28% of all pneumonia deaths in adults.


Air Pollution Fact #26


In low and middle-income countries, air pollution leads to 25% of premature COPD deaths in adults.


Air Pollution Fact #27


Over 90% of kids in the world inhale toxic air.


Air Pollution Fact #28


Acute lower respiratory infections and COPD accounted for 18% of all premature deaths caused by outdoor air pollution in 2016.


Air Pollution Fact #29


Zabol city, Iran, sees dust storms that can damage human lungs within hours of breathing the contaminated air!

Zabol city was the most polluted city globally in 2016 according to CNBC.


Air Pollution Fact #30


In 2012, Eastern Europe saw the most air pollution-related deaths worldwide, with Ukraine and Bulgaria being the most affected. That’s according to data released by the WHO.


Air Pollution Fact # 31


We said there air pollution is lowest in high-income countries. Still, air pollution in those countries reduces life expectancy by up to 2 years!


Air Pollution Fact # 32


In the U.S., air pollution causes 50,000 deaths every year.


Air Pollution Fact #33


Air pollution costs the U.S. a staggering $40 billion in lost productivity and healthcare. That’s 1.7 times the size of the entire air purifier market every year!



Air Pollution Fact #34


More than 10 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India. Well, they’re not in China as you probably thought. That’s according to the WHO (2013).


Air Pollution Fact # 35


Thought China wasn’t doing enough to combat air pollution? Well, China invested 2 times the money the U.S. spent on generating renewable energy in 2016.


Air Pollution Fact # 36


Satellite data from NASA reveals that from 2010 to 2017, particulate matter (PM2.5) in China decreased 17%.

Over the same period, the U.S. saw a PM2.5 reduction of 15%.


Air Pollution Fact #37


In 2010, air pollution cost Europe a whopping $1.6 trillion. That figure was 10% of the European Union’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).


Air Pollution Fact #38


In 2010, air pollution cost China $1.4 trillion, which was 23% of the country’s GDP.


Air Pollution Fact #39


Studies have demonstrated that air pollution from transportation negatively affects cognitive development in children.


Air Pollution Fact #40


Research has associated air pollution with adverse effects on psychomotor development in children.


Air Pollution Fact # 41


Recent findings reveal that air pollution can seriously damage the human brain. The areas most affected are cortical gray matter, basal ganglia, and cerebral white matter.


Air Pollution Fact #42


More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths happen in Asia and Africa.


That’s quite a list, huh?

But what are you going with all these air pollution facts?

A little further down the road, this post suggests 11 small steps anyone can take to help reduce air pollution.


But What’s Air Pollution?


MedlinePlus defines air pollution as “a mixture of solid particles and gases in the air.” Particulate matter may include pollen, dust, mold spores, and building materials such as asbestos and formaldehyde.

Ozone is among the most important gases that pollute outdoor air. Ground-level ozone combines with particulate matter (PM) to form smog.

Gases such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and methane also pollute outdoor air.

And do you smoke? Consider quitting the habit as it keeps escalating an already terrible problem.

The problem with air pollution is that there’s no safe level.

Even small amounts of air pollutants can lead to health complications including asthma and heart attack. Some of the substances that pollute air are natural while others are human-made.

Good news: cities and governments across the world are making the effort to address air pollution. Meanwhile, people will have to deal with the worrying effects of air pollution.


What Causes Air Pollution?


Air pollution comes from human and natural causes. Human activity is the main culprit when it comes to causes of air pollution. There are hundreds of different ways humans worsen the already bad air pollution situation.

Let’s look at a few human and natural factors that contribute to air pollution. 


Burning Fuels

vehicular pollution
Image Source: Getty Images. Vehicles burn fuels and release harmful compounds such as nitrogen dioxides and formaldehyde into the air. Soot also comes out, and breathing it can cause chronic illness.

Humans burn fuels to power cars, ships and planes. They also burn coal to produce electricity for use in homes and for commercial purposes. Vehicles of all kinds send keep releasing tons of dangerous gaseous pollutants and soot into the air.

Burning fuels is a hugely significant factor when it comes to air pollution. That’s why everyone who cares about the environment is pushing for cleaner energy sources and vehicles. 




People need food. And as they cultivate their farms, air pollution happens. Farming releases two main pollutants into the air. These are ammonia and methane. 


Unsafe Cooking Technologies

Indoor air pollution
a woman cooking food using firewood somewhere in Africa. This is indoor air pollution happening right here, and it kills about 3.8 million people across the world each year.

Unclean cooking and heating technologies especially in developing regions are another major source of air pollution. Each year, more than 3,800,000 people die thanks to indoor air.

Pollution from unclean cooking technologies is the greatest contributor to indoor air pollution. 


Waste Management


Waste management and treatment also spews pollutants out into outdoor air. Landfills are a huge source of air pollution.

But can we live without landfills? 


Natural Processes

air pollution from volcanic pollution
a volcano erupting and releasing potentially harmful gases into the air.

Another cause of air pollution is  natural processes. Dust storms and volcanic activity blow tons of pollution into outdoor air. Admittedly, dust storms and erupting volcanoes aren’t that frequent, but they happen. And they worsen the problem.

You’ve now seen how bad air pollution is (from the air pollution facts stated earlier). Also, you’ve learned the different ways air pollution happens.

Now, it’s time to learn how air pollution affects you and the environment.


What are the Effects of Air Pollution?


Why are the air pollution facts mentioned earlier important? Knowing these air pollution facts encourages everyone to do something about the problem.


No One Ever Quits Breathing!


As long as you live, you’ll breathe.

Did you know that the average person breathes about 3,000 gallons of air each day? That’s what the EPA says.

Every time you and your loved ones breathe, small harmful particles enter your body. Some are as small as 0.1 microns while others are as large as 10 microns.


The Smallest Particles are the Deadliest


That’s a fact.

Some of the deadliest particles people inhale are usually the smallest. As mentioned above, some are as small as 0.1 microns. That means you can’t see those particles with your eyes. 

Here’s the problem with these particles. 

Some of them finds it way into people’s lungs, bloodstream, and brain. While you may not see these particles, they’re always busy at work. They’re busy killing you!

Here’s what air pollution does. 


1. Air Pollution Causes Deadly Diseases


Look at the list of air pollution facts again. You’ll see that air pollution causes quite a few complicated health problems.

Such problems include heart attack, lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and stroke.

Now, look at the list of air pollution facts above. You’ll see that air pollution claims more than 7,000, 000 lives each year. That’s many, many deaths. That’s why you and everyone else should care about the problem.

The good thing is you can do something to help yourself, others, and the environment. We’ll see what you can do about the problem a little later on. 


2. Air Pollution Can Damage the Brain and Even Lower IQ!


Also, air pollution may damage the brain, nerves, liver, and kidneys. These are some of the most critical organs in the body. Credible studies have demonstrated that air pollution can make people dumber. It can actually lower the IQ. More on this under Startling fact #2 below. 

What does that mean? It means air pollution can turn brilliant employees into less effective workers over time. Do you want your kids to continue making As? Well, you’ll have to work on reducing the air pollution in your home.

The EPA claims that indoor air carries more pollution than outdoor air. You’ll probably forget all the other air pollution facts mentioned in this post. But you should always remember these two startling facts:


Startling fact #1


The air inside your home is dirtier than air outside the home.


Startling fact#2


Air pollution can seriously damage the brain. Studies show that air pollution can damage these 3 important parts of the brain. These are gray matter, basal ganglia, and cerebral white matter. Air pollution has also been associated with dementia in elderly people. 

In addition, air pollution can also adversely affect  psychomotor and cognitive development in children. If you want to see great academic performance in your kids, address your indoor air pollution.

Air purifiers that use True HEPA filters are a great way to reduce indoor air pollution. Want to read a few air purifier reviews? You can start with this HPA200 review.  Or read reviews for the Honeywell HPA200 True HEPA Allergen Remover 310 sq. ft. on Amazon. 


3. Air Pollution reduces Visibility 


London’s killer fog of 1952 led to estimated 12,000 deaths, according to USA Today. In addition, up to 150,000 people were hospitalized.

The Great Smog didn’t even spare animals. Many animals died. The smog was so terrible that guides had to walk ahead of buses carrying lamps!

Smog reduces visibility. That means its presence can lead to road accidents. Smog is a constant sight in many cities around the world today. While the problem is worse in some cities, it’s a global concern. 

Reduced visibility is one of the earliest signs that a city’s air pollution has reached harmful levels. According to USA Today, smog dangerously reduced visibility in India and Pakistan in 2017.

The smog was so thick that motorists couldn’t see the road properly. Accidents happened, too. And many people couldn’t even leave their homes.


But What Causes Smog?


Smog occurs when light from the Sun reacts with a volatile organic compound and nitrogen oxides. That’s why environmentalists call it photochemical smog.

The reaction produces chemical compounds such as ozone and peroxyacetyl nitrate.


4. Air Pollution Contributes to Climate Change


Governments all over the world can’t stop worrying the ever-worsening air pollution. That’s because
air pollution contributes to climate change.

But how does it do that? It contains greenhouse gases. 

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere. And that’s what’s causing the warmer temperatures seen everywhere today. If the phenomenon continues unchecked, humans could face insurmountable problems in the near future.

But all these are long-term effects of air pollution. What about short-term effects?


Short-term Effects of Air Pollution


What are the short-term effects of air pollution? Some of the short-term effects of air pollution include nausea, headaches, and allergic reactions.  Consider this: about 50,000,000 Americans battle allergies.

That’s fully 15% of the entire population. Small wonder that air purifiers such as the hpa200 that remove allergens are getting rave reviews on Amazon and other places.

But knowing all the air pollution facts in the world won’t do anyone any good. You should know about the possible solutions so you can do something about the issue. Let’s now look at a couple solutions to air pollution.


Solutions to Air Pollution


The air pollution facts mentioned earlier in this post are more than disturbing. As a caring person, you naturally want to help in some way. But you probably don’t what to do or how to do that.

Here are a few ways you can help minimize the problem.

Start by lowering energy consumption. Consuming less electricity, for example, helps reduce air pollution. How? Remember that power plants produce electricity by burning fossil fuels. If people use less electricity, power plants will likely burn less fuel, reducing air population. Even better, consuming less energy saves you money.


11 Small Actions You Can Take to Reduce Air Pollution


Let’s roll. 

Action 1: Save Energy


There are many things you can do to save energy. Take a look.


  • Insulate your home
  • Use Energy Star qualified appliances
  • Use an EPA-approved stove
  • Use fans instead of air conditioning
  • Keep lights turned off while you’re away
  • Wash your clothes in cold water and hang them on the drying line
  • Consider alternative energy solutions such as wind or solar


What else can you do to consume less energy?


Action 2: Use Environmentally Friendly Products


Choose clean and environmentally friendly products. For your home, garage and garden, avoid using products known to emit smog-forming chemicals.

Certain products may contain particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These substances can cause allergies or worsen respiratory diseases. So buy products created from sustainable sources.

Have you ever considered the idea of making your own cleaning products? You can do that easily using abundantly available but harmless materials.  Baking soda and vinegar are two insanely affordable materials you can use. Using these materials, you can concoct “organic” cleaning solutions at home for cleaning items and surfaces.

Stop worrying about the air pollution facts appearing at the top of this post. Take action, instead. 


Action 3: Store Solvents Properly


You’ll want to store every solvent in an airtight container. That ensures no harmful fumes get released into your indoor environment. 


Action 4: Plant Trees


Trees look good. They provide shade. And they can protect your home against strong winds.

There’s more. 

Trees have the ability to filter outdoor air.

The less polluted outdoor air is, the better. Remember: some of the air outside ends up inside your home.

Planting trees is a simple action you can take to positively affect the air pollution facts listed in this post.

The good thing is that planting a few trees in the yard is quite easy. And it’s not time-consuming.  Why not start with a tree a month? Think of the cleaner, healthier air you’ll enjoy. 


Action 5: Quit Smoking


Well, this is a personal decision. But smoking affects not just the smoker. Nonsmokers can suffer terrible harm from inhaling air full of tobacco smoke over a prolonged period.

Well, you can use certain devices to suppress tobacco odors. However, there’s no way to completely eliminate all the carcinogens that emanate from smoking. That’s why you probably should stop smoking. At least, you should stop endangering the lives of your loved ones. Don’t smoke in the house. 

Get more information on the harmful effects of tobacco smoke here. Reflect on what you’ll learn there. Add that to the implications of the air pollution facts you’ve encountered here. You’ll want to quit smoking immediately. 


Action 6: Use Air Purification Devices


People who battle allergies and related problems should listen carefully now. A lot of air pollution happens in summer. During that time, dirty air keeps swirling around one’s home. And some of that dust enters the house. If you’re allergic to dust, you worry a lot when summer comes around. 

Spring also comes with a whole new set of challenges. It brings plant pollen. And pollen worsens allergies in lots of people. 

What can you do about this? You can use an cleaning device. Luckily, there are bazillions of affordable air purifiers today. Some cost as low as $100 and even lower.


Read Air Purifier Reviews Before Shelling Out Money


You’ll want to read honest air purifier reviews before forking over the money. You can read a few reviews on this website such as this one, this one, and this one. You’ll want to pick an air purifier that uses True HEPA filters.

The Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover, 465 sq. Ft, HPA300 , for example, uses True HEPA filters that eliminate up to 99.97% of air contaminants.

From the air pollution facts mentioned earlier, you’ll see that more than 3 billion people use dirty cooking technologies. They get smoke and fumes that put their health at risk.

Good news: there’s a vast array of air cleaning products that can help these people. Bad news; most of these people can’t afford them.

One hopes manufacturers will soon start producing devices that pretty much everyone can afford. 


Action 7: Carpooling Also Helps


Carpooling saves money.

t also helps you build stronger bonds with your workmates.

Most importantly, carpooling  helps reducing air pollution.


Action 8: Work Remotely


Well, this suggestion isn’t for everyone. 

If you’re ok with working from home, ask your boss if they could let you work remotely.

That way, you could save lots of dollars on gas. Plus, you’d contribute less to air pollution. You’d also save tons of time. And more time often means more productivity and more income. 


Action 9: Turn Off Computers and Other Equipment


Make sure to turn off office computers, fax machines, lights, and equipment when not in use.

Where possible, reduce energy consumption by opening blinds. With the blinds opened, you can then turn off lights and save energy.

Turning off the computer or copier is a small action. But it does something about the air pollution facts you saw above. 


Action 10: Don’t Waste Paper


Paper comes from trees.

If you’ll start printing and photocopying on both sides of the paper, factories will use fewer trees. Meaning there’ll be more trees left standing.

And trees reduce outdoor pollution.


Action 11: Help Someone Access Clean, Safe Cooking Solutions


You may not have much in common with people living in little-known countries such as Burundi and Mozambique. But many people there use unclean cooking technologies that worsen air pollution. Unfortunately, the government may not do much to help. Or, they may not even care as much as they should.

And that’s where you come in.

Consider donating to any of the nonprofits helping low-income households get access to clean cooking solutions. If you think of all the terrifying air pollution facts above, you’ll want to give without much delay. 


Find a Credible Nonprofit and Give


There are many credible and transparent nonprofits out there. Pick one. Such charities spend millions of dollars every year. They need all the help they can get. Help them.

A quick internet search should connect you with a nonprofit that deserves your dollars.

As more and more people start using clean and safe cooking solutions, the world will see reduced air pollution.


All these solutions probably don’t sound like much. But if everyone started helping in some small way, we could reduce air pollution drastically. And we’d all worry less about the grim air pollution facts mentioned in this article. 


Final Thoughts on Shocking Air Pollution Facts



Cast one more glance at the air pollution facts stated at the beginning of this post. Evidently, air pollution is a growing global issue.

Air pollution causes smog which reduces visibility and can cause serious illness. Air pollution also contributes to climate change.

In addition, air pollution kills. It leads to millions of avoidable deaths each year. Apart from that, air pollution lowers the quality of life for millions of people around the world. It aggravates allergies and worsens breathing problems for asthma sufferers. 

Luckily, governments are doing what they can to address air pollution. But there are many small steps you can take to reduce air pollution at home, on the road, and at work.


*Affiliate Links Disclosure

This website participates in the Amazon Associates program. And as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. However, you won’t pay a dime more for clicking on any of the affiliate links in this content.


Leave a Comment