this map indicates its quality by cities

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Madrid said goodbye to January with one of his least kind prints: the famous pollution “cap” made up of gases and suspended particles that, over the last few years, has already led the City Council to apply traffic restrictions. Although due to population, flow of cars and economic activity, it may be more serious there, the problem is by no means exclusive to the capital. Other cities in Spain and the rest of the world see from time to time how the quality of their air drops worryingly. And that is a problem. For health. And for economy.

The data is compelling. According to the WHOair pollution causes seven million premature deaths each year and he creates fixes the daily cost of pollution caused by fossil fuels in about 8,000 million dollars a dayso so 3% of world economic output. As it is difficult to fight an enemy without knowing it, institutions, NGOs and researchers have been in charge of monitoring our air for a long time. The result is a photograph of the entire planet that, in short, shows us where it is best to breathe and where it is worst.

To facilitate our work when handling the information, IQ Air It has been in charge of collecting values ​​from 6,475 cities distributed throughout 117 countries and regions and capturing them on a map. Specifically, its technicians have focused on PM2.5 data, which are very fine aerosol particles, at most 2.5 microns in diameter that are of concern to experts. They are often generated by traffic, industry or construction and are measured in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³).

And what does the result show?

A map for air changes

So if we look at the last edition, that of 2021, we appreciate relevant changes without leaving Spain. In our country, IQAir provides data from the main cities and indicates their average PM2.5, the place they occupy in the world ranking and how close they have come to WHO recommended standardwhich sets the target at 5 µg/m³, except for the most recommended points on the planet.

With those values, the worst unemployed in the country They are The Grao of Castellón and Murcia, both in Levante. The first marked 15.8 µg/m³ and ranked 1,626 of the 6,475 locations analyzed by IQAir; the second scored 15.1 µg/m³ and ranked 1,735. Interestingly, not far from there are other municipalities with the best range of results, such as Torrevieja, Alicante, Albalat, Algar de Palancia or Benicasim, none above 5 µg/m³ of polluting particles.


In Barcelona it was registered 13.2, which places the city in position 2,166; in Zaragoza 11.4; in Malaga 11.6; Seville 10.2; Bilbao 10.1; Vigo 11 and A Coruña 12.5. In all these cities, IQAir estimates that throughout 2021 it exceeded the WHO guideline on two or three occasions. In the community of Madrid, the data vary significantly depending on where the measurement is made. In the capital itself, the result was 9.4 µg/m³; but in Coslada they reached 13.1.

What happens in Spain with air pollution: three of the ten worst European cities are in the country and there are good reasons to take it seriously

In the islands the results are generally reasonable. In Mallorca (Sa Pobla) they scored 8.1 and in the Canary archipelago the results ranged between the 12.6 registered in Arafo and the 6.7 in Breña. At none of the points, however, is the orange level which is reached in Levante points.

beyond Spain, the IQAir report shows a clear difference between continents, leaving East, South-East and South Asia as the worst off countries. Africa also shows worrying data, although, as the technicians acknowledge, they only obtained data in 13 of the 54 countries, so the monitoring there is not complete. For that reason part of the continent is shown in grey. As in the map of Spain, the best results appear in blue (0-5 µg/m³ of PM2.5) and the graduation worsens until it reaches violet, with an alarming 50 µg/m³ of PM2.5.


If the general ranking of 117 countries is analyzed, Spain is at the bottom of the table, in 88th place. Its average value is slightly better than that of other European neighbors, such as Italy, Switzerland, Greece or Austria; but it fares worse when compared to Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Germany or the United Kingdom. Also with our Iberian neighbors. If Spain marks an average of 10.7; in Andorra the figure is 7.3 and Portugal 7.1. The worst unemployed is Bangladesh and the best New Caledonia.

2021 Country Region Ranking

The drawing is more or less similar when the capitals are analyzed. By far the most worrying figure is that of New Delhiin India, with 85 µg/m³ of PM2.5, which places it at the purple end, the worst of those described by the WHO. Nouméa, in New Caledonia, occupies the opposite pole, with only 3.8. In between, near Copenhagen, Luxembourg or London, is Madrid, with 9.4.


Although the metropolises of Europe, in general, do not fare badly in the global picture provided by IQAir, its technicians encourage don’t let your guard down. “Increasing levels of PM2.5 have been singled out as the most serious environmental risk to health in Europe even though emissions have fallen considerably this century,” point the report.

Its authors warn of certain differences between territories: “The areas of northern and western Europe have higher PM2.5 levels than the south and east due to the burning of coal and biomass for heating in countries that experience long winter months and cold.”

24 Waqr Europe Map 2

Pictures | IQ Air

Madrid said goodbye to January with one of his least kind prints: the famous pollution “cap” made up of gases…

Madrid said goodbye to January with one of his least kind prints: the famous pollution “cap” made up of gases…

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