In 2018 the IQAir Airvisual app and website released a report of the world’s most polluted cities. The app and website have been working together for years to monitor global air pollution. They are widely regarded as the definitive source for this information.
The report made for grim reading. Estimations make air pollution responsible for around 7 million premature deaths every year. This makes polluted air the fourth biggest contributor to early deaths.
The World Health Organization has set a goal for the amount of particulate matter (PM2.5) be no higher than 10 μg/m³ t. Anything under 12 is acceptable though. Unhealthy starts at 55.5. Unfortunately there are a quite a few cities in this range.
The changing climate is contributing to this problem. Without change it will get worse. The continued burning of fossil fuels and the increase in forest fires have lowered the air quality worldwide.
World leaders are being encouraged to look into ways to lower the air pollution levels. Hopefully the future will bring cleaner cities with less air pollution.
In the meantime, there are still some cities you can live in with great air quality and low pollution. By moving to one of these overseas cities, you can potentially put years onto your life. While many American cities have a good air quality, the ones below are the best in the world.
If you’re suffering from breathing difficulties, or just want to enjoy the fresh air these are the places you should go to.
Sorted by average yearly PM2.5 concentration
Wellington New Zealand – 6.0
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and is located on the North Island. The city has been getting recognition from travel magazines and bloggers over the last couple of years. It is also one of the least-polluted places you can live. The waters are clean and great for surfing. The air has one of the lowest PM2.5 concentrations of any capital city.
Wellington has a great food and drink scene with cafes, bars and restaurants in abundance. A short drive out of the city puts you back in touch with nature. The mountains and forests are a world away from city life, great for an easy getaway. Tolkein fans can take advantage of the Lord Of The Rings memorabilia found at Peter Jacksons Weta Workshop.
Dublin, Ireland – 9.5
Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland and one of the least polluted capital cities in Europe. The town used to suffer from a similar smog problem to London. During the winter, residents would heat their homes with open fires. In 1990 smoky coal was banned, which did a great deal to improve the air quality in Dublin.
Today, Dublin is a modern city with very little pollution. It benefits from a strong housing market, and is also a great place for immigrants to find work. Particularly in the tech industry. Dublin has a busy nightlife and social scene. There are lots of great bars and restaurants to enjoy. Head away from the main tourist traps to experience the real Dublin.
Santana Portugal – 3.4
Santana, in the Portuguese island of Madeira, has some of the best air quality in the world. This quiet island is popular with tourists, but has managed to preserve its culture and traditions. There are relatively few cars on the roads keeping pollution down in the city. The sea-breeze dissipates what little air pollution exists in this Atlantic island.
Despite being an island, Madeira is not the place to go for the beach life. The climate is spring-like and stays at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit all year. Madeira is a great place to go for people who enjoy the outdoors. The island is a favorite with hikers, and the tough climbs reward you with spectacular views of the island. Fruit and vegetables grow here in abundance and you can easily grow your own. Madeira is a small island, and if you don’t like seafood you won’t want to stay more than a week!
Guanajuanto City, Mexico 9.0
Guanajuanto is one of the exceptions to this list. It’s not a seaside town. However, its location high in the mountains provide it with plenty of breeze to keep the pollution moving. The fresh air and cool temperatures make Guanajuanto a great town for exploring on foot. The cobbled streets are full of bars, cafes, and food stalls to keep you occupied.
Guanajuanto City is most famous for beign a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once a thriving silver mining town, there is a rich history here. The brightly painted colonial buildings are a testament to the wealth that this city was built on.
Punta Arenas, Chile 4.5
Punta Arenas is a port town in the Patagonia region of Chile. Patagonia is the region that borders the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Here the air quality is some of the best in the world, thanks to the isolation, and windy conditions.
This is a wild place. The seas around the tip are some of the most dangerous in the world. Much of the surrounding land is wild and unforgiving. Punta Arenas can feel like another world, but the town itself is charming. There is a European feel to the Punta Arenas, and many of the buildings are built in the Old World style. Foodies love to come here to sample the king crab, that lives in the regions waters.
Calamba, Philippines, 9.3
Calamba is a substantial city of nearly half a million people. It is famous within the country for being the birth place of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. However outside of the Philipines, most people don’t know this city.
Thanks to the lack of pollution though, it’s caught the attention of the IQ Air Airvisual team. They are happy to recommend Calamba as being one of the top performing cities for air quality in Asia. Despite scoring well, it is important that complacency doesn’t set in. An estimated 2,400 Filipino’s die each year, mostly near major coal plants in cities.
Helsinki, Finland 7.2
On the other side of the Gulf of Finland is the Finish capital, Helsinki. Like Tallinn, Helsinik has some of the cleanest air in Europe. The reliable tram system connects the town and eliminates a lot of the need for driving around town. This is super-helpful in keeping pollution levels low.
That’s not to say it can’t get better. On days when the sea-breeze doesn’t blow, smog from traffic doesn’t always disperse. Still, compared to other major cities, even at its worst, Helsinki has decent air quality.
Anyone spending time in Helsinki should make a point of visiting the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. This UNESCO World Heritage site is located on an island close to Helsinki. The Sea Fortress was built when Finland was still part of Sweden. The defensive walls span 6 interlinking islands. Today Suomenlinna has a number of walking trails as well as restaurants, and even a brewery.
Tallinn, Estonia 7.1
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia. Located in the North of the country, its location on the Baltic Sea made it a convenient location for traders on their way to St Petersburg. The sea breeze and lack of major industry have combined to make Tallinn one of the best places in Europe for air quality.
Tallinn is city of two seasons. During the summer, temperatures are pleasant and can reach up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit on a hot day. During the winter it regularly falls below 20 Degrees Fahrenheit. The summer months are also famous for the long hours of sunlight. During June, the sun rises around 4am and sets close to 11pm, providing over 18 hours of natural sunlight. The flip side of this is the winter allows just over 6 hours of sunlight per day. Although it might seem gloomy, the extended darkness comes with an upside. It improves your chances of seeing the spectacular Northern lights, which you can from the countryside close to Tallinn.
Lisbon, Portugal 11.7
Lisbon is one of our favorite cities. From the charming old town down to the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon really has something for everyone. The air quality is good here. Lisbon residents enjoy a smog-free lifestyle. As well unpolluted air, the beaches near Lisbon are clean, and the water is pollution free.
There is a lot to like about Lisbon. The property market is strong. Over the last ten years or so, parts of the city have seen rapid increases in price. This has pushed gentrification into other areas. Previously run-down neighborhoods are undergoing renewal. Old buildings have been restored and new shops, and businesses opened. Investors who chose the right area to buy have a chance to make some money on their property purchase. Investment in Portugal is also one of the best ways to obtain an EU residency thanks to Portugal’s excellent Golden Visa program.