33 Air Pollution Facts

air pollution

Sadly, Air pollution is becoming an inseparable part of modern life. While the use of fossil fuel has accelerated technology to an unprecedented level this past century, it has also cost us dearly. 

As we can all learn more about air pollution, this article will share 33 air pollution facts to get you thinking about the impact air pollution has on your life.

#1. Air Pollution Fact

China is currently investing $US361 Billion in renewables as part of an attempt to downshift from coal power. The country’s unending smog problem fuels the huge investment in renewables.

#2. Air Pollution Fact

In 2015, Indonesian forest fires generated more CO2 than the UK’s annual total carbon output. These fires are a “slash-and-burn” tactic used by palm oil companies to clear land for new plantations.

#3. Air Pollution Fact

Air pollution is slowly destroying several historical structures in the Athens Acropolis. Sulfur dioxides from pollution gradually convert to sulfur trioxides in the atmosphere, which turns to sulfuric acid when dissolved in water. This dissolves ancient structures.

#4. Air Pollution Fact

Exhaust emission from ocean shipping continues to be a threat to the global environment. The worldwide use of fuels with high sulfur content results in millions of tons of sulfur dioxide being dumped into the atmosphere each year. As transport volume increases over time, these emissions will continue to rise.

#5. Air Pollution Fact

Roughly 92% of the world population live in areas where ambient air pollution exceeds the World Health Organization’s safe limit (WHO). One indicator is the amount of airborne particulate matter less than 2 .5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5), exceeding ten micrograms per cubic meter.

#6. Air Pollution Fact

Air pollution is responsible for 2.2 million deaths due to strokes, 2 million deaths due to heart disease, and 1.7 million deaths due to lung diseases and associated cancers.

#7. Air Pollution Fact

Deaths caused by air pollution costs the world economy $US225 Billion in lost labor income. When we include welfare costs, the number jumps to more than 5 Trillion USD.

#8. Air Pollution Fact

Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Estonia, and Finland have the least polluted urban areas, while Pakistan, Qatar, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Egypt have the most polluted urban areas.

#9. Air Pollution Fact

Commercial care products and cars are the main contributors to hazardous Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in urban environments. Chemicals from personal care products, adhesives, inks, paints, and pesticides emit the most VOCs.

#10. Air Pollution Fact

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health discovered a link between air pollution and autism. Researchers found that pregnant women exposed to high pollution levels in their third trimester are more likely to have children diagnosed with autism. They theorize that this is because harmful particles such as methylene chloride, mercury, diesel particulates, manganese, and lead are inhaled by the expecting mothers. These chemicals affect brain development.

#11. Air Pollution Fact

Prolonged exposure to air pollution will make your skin age faster. Air pollutants like cigarette smoke, volatile organic compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons induce oxidative stress on your skin, which increases signs of aging like wrinkling and discoloration.

#12. Air Pollution Fact

Exercising in the gym may help you lose weight, gain muscle, and improve your cardiovascular health, but the lack of ventilation in the gym means you are exposed to a high volume of VOCs, PM10, and PM2.5. Even if you inhale polluted air outside, the risk of exposure through exercising outside is significantly reduced.

#13. Air Pollution Fact

A study conducted in Taiwan found that prolonged exposure to PM2.5 in the air can change the shape of sperm and decrease sperm size.  However, the male body compensates for this by increasing the sperm count to prevent infertility.

#14. Air Pollution Fact

Research from the University of Washington found that polluted air can make it harder for you to fall and stay asleep. People exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide only have 60% sleep efficiency. This research proves that improving air quality is highly beneficial to enhance sleep quality for people living in the cities.

#15. Air Pollution Fact

Almost half of the world’s trash is burned instead of going to landfills or being recycled. Garbage burning contributes to 10% of mercury and 29% of global PM2.5 emissions.

#16. Air Pollution Fact

To battle air pollution from cars in their cities, the German government plans to roll out country-wide free public transport. The German government is eyeing the success of a similar scheme in Niort, Western France.

#17. Air Pollution Fact

Wearing simple and inexpensive face masks while you have outdoor activities can reduce the number of airborne pollutants entering your respiratory system by 80% or more. Cotton handkerchiefs, on the other hand, can only block less than 30%.

#18. Air Pollution Fact

Between 30% to 45% of the urban population in North America live within 0.2 and 0.3 miles of a busy road. These people have a higher risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease, with children and teenagers being the most prone.

#19. Air Pollution Fact

Minorities and poorer communities are more prone to polluted air compared to the general population. Researchers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that non-white communities have a 28% higher health burden while people living under the poverty line have a 35% higher burden.

#20. Air Pollution Fact

Under the Trump Administration, EPA’s new rules allow thousands of major polluters in the USA to turn off their pollution controls. They are also no longer required by law to correctly report their emissions.

#21. Air Pollution Fact

In 1952, London was hit with a smog so thick that it lasted for four days. It was called the Great Smog and caused over 4,000 deaths while over 100,000 people were seriously sick.

#22. Air Pollution Fact

Air pollution is bad news for productivity in offices. When indoor air quality drops, so does office productivity.

#23. Air Pollution Fact

Beijing, China, has a four-color smog alert system, using blue, yellow, orange, and red. Their orange alert requires heavy industries and factories producing cement and furniture to limit output to 50%. The red warning has never been issued.

#24. Air Pollution Fact

The cleanest diesel engines in modern cars still produce much more NOx than the legally allowed limit during real driving emission tests. However, three cigarettes produce airborne particulates three times as much as a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine.

#25. Air Pollution Fact

Volkswagen’s dieselgate scandal costs the company over $US30 Billion. The scandal erupted when VW was found installing cheat devices in its cars to downplay the NOx emission during laboratory tests.

#26. Air Pollution Fact

About 3 billion people in the world still cook and heat their homes by burning solid fuels such as wood and coal. This practice leads to over 4 million premature deaths due to illnesses caused by pollution emitted from the practice.

#27. Air Pollution Fact

When comparing all deaths due to pneumonia among small children under five years old, scientists found that over half of them result from inhaling soot at home.

#28. Air Pollution Fact

NASA’s Clean Air Study discovered that some plants effectively remove Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, ammonia, and xylene. Examples of these plants include the snake plant, Chinese evergreen, broadleaf lady palm, bamboo palm, and the Boston fern.

#29. Air Pollution Fact

Hay fever caused by Birch pollen was almost unheard of a century ago in the UK. Now, one out of four people in the UK is affected. That’s a shot up from just one out of eight in the early ‘80s. Research from the University of Birmingham uncovers the link between pollen’s allergenicity with weather change and environmental pollution.

#30. Air Pollution Fact

Central heating and cooling systems in homes rarely bring fresh air into the house. Instead, WHO recommends opening the windows whenever the weather allows it.

#31. Air Pollution Fact

The Healthy Air Campaign experiment discovers that people driving their cars are exposed to pollution eight times more than what cyclists are exposed to on the same road. This is because polluted air from other vehicles enters the car’s ventilation system and stays there.

#32. Air Pollution Fact

2017 saw the biggest number of electric car sales in the US. It was up 25% from the previous year. The Energy Policy Simulator used by Energy Innovation forecasts that by 2050 electric cars will make up 65% of new car sales.

#33. Air Pollution Fact

Air pollution worsens climate change. Short-lived climate-forcing pollutants (SLCPs), including sulfate aerosols, ground-level ozone, black carbon, and methane, significantly impact the earth’s climate. Black carbon and methane are next to CO2 as the main contributors to global warming.


Okay, that’s all for our shortlist of air pollution facts. While we hope we didn’t scare you too much, we hope you are more aware of the issue of air pollution and what you can do about it. While you can never reduce your pollution exposure to 0%, keeping your home clean, reducing your exposure to VOC’s and investing in an air purifier will help you reduce your pollution exposure.

Running an air purifier in your home is a simple yet effective way to improve the air quality in your home considerably. Whether you live next to a busy road, have asthma or allergy, or simply wish to breathe easier every day, getting an air purifier is a smart move.


Karie is a science-obsessed writer with a sensitive nose. She has been using air purifiers for many years, and uses them obsessively to keep her home dust-free. She is passionate about helping people find the right air purifier for them.