09/28/2011, 00.00
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Asian cities and capitals are the most polluted in the world

According to a WHO study, Ulan Bator, New Delhi, Islamabad and Beijing are in the top 10 of the rankings. Among the causes: wild industrialization and the use of polluting resources such as coal. The highest PM10 number recorded is in Ahvaz, in southwestern Iran, with 372 mcg. Every year 1.3 million people die from respiratory diseases.
Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Asia and the Middle East have a dubious distinction: they have the highest number of capitals and cities with the worst levels of air pollution. These are the findings from a survey released in recent days by the World Health Organisation (WHO), according to which Iran, India, Pakistan, China and Mongolia are the nations that are of particular concern. The cause of the peak in PM10 - microscopic particles in the atmosphere, whose aerodynamic diameter is less than or equal to 10µm, or ten thousandths of a millimeter - wild industrialization and the widespread use of energy resources like coal, which has devastating impacts on the environment.

The list was compiled based on official data published in recent years by national governments. The Iranian city of Ahvaz - 1.3 million inhabitants in the south-west of the country - registered the highest level of PM10 in the world, out of a total of over a thousand cities in the study. According to the data, Ahvaz recorded an average value of 372 micrograms per cubic meter; this level is the result of massive industrialization and the use of motor vehicles and vehicles with a high environmental impact.

For the experts of the WHO, the level of PM10 should not exceed 20 micrograms per cubic meter. Air pollution, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide – can lead to serious respiratory damage in humans and cause the death of at least 1.3 million people per year, many of them afflicted with lung cancer.
Among capital cities, Ulan Bator, Mongolia, is the most polluted in the world with a level of 279 micrograms of PM10 (pictured), the figure is the result of the high use of coal and wood for energy. It is followed by New Delhi, Islamabad, Riyadh, Dhaka and Kuwait City.

Despite the anti-smog campaign launched in 2008 on the occasion of the Olympics, Beijing also still registers a high rate of air pollution, ranking 10th on the list of capital cities with the worst level of air. But Yongliang, from Tsinghua University, underlines the gap between Beijing and the other capitals of the world: "We have made progress", he confirmed, "but much remains to be done."
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