Skip to content
Weather & Science

Less Than 1% of Earth Has Safe Levels of Air Pollution, Study Finds

Around the world, daily concentrations of fine particulate matter in the air exceed recommended limits most of the time, scientists say. 

Buildings shrouded in haze in Beijing.

Buildings shrouded in haze in Beijing.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

It’s no secret that air pollution is a serious problem facing the world today. Just how serious? A new study on global daily levels of air pollution shows that hardly anywhere on Earth is safe from unhealthy air. 

About 99.82% of the global land area is exposed to levels of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) — tiny particles in the air that scientists have linked to lung cancer and heart disease — above the safety limit recommended by the World Health Organization, according to the peer-reviewed study published Monday in Lancet Planetary Health. And only 0.001% of the world’s population breathes in air that is considered acceptable, the paper says.