Breathe easy, Beijingers. The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially designated New Delhi as the city with the world’s worst air pollution, thanks in part to unclear data provided by Beijing. Hoorah for opacity!
Air pollution worsened globally since 2011, and 13 of the top 20 cities were in India. However, it was not an apples-to-apples comparison: the Beijing air quality data was from 2010, whereas India’s data was from 2012, according to Reuters.
“Too many urban centres today are so enveloped in dirty air that their skylines are invisible,” said WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Children and Women’s Health Dr. Flavia Bustreo, in a statement. “Not surprisingly, this air is dangerous to breathe. So a growing number of cities and communities worldwide are striving to better meet the needs of their residents – in particular children and the elderly."
While some countries set standards for PM 2.5 particulate matter levels, including China, WHO says there is no safe level for PM 2.5.
Beijing’s pollution isn’t getting worse, according to analysis of PM 2.5 data collected by the US Embassy over the last five years, although the worst time on record occurred on January 23, 2012, coinciding with the arrival of Spring Festival and accompanying fireworks throughout the city.
Earlier in the week, Quartz published this helpful charts using more recent data so that our particle-drenched minds could fully comprehend how much better it is to live in Beijing than New Delhi:
And this one, just in case you weren’t feeling so upbeat about the last one:
There’s plenty of blame for Beijing’s pollution to go around, from outdoor barbecues to factories in nearby Hebei province. It may not be getting worse, but for the moment it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
This post first appeared on thebeijinger.com on May 8, 2014 and has been slightly modified.