2.5 million people die each year from air pollution, whether they be related to poor air quality indoor or outdoor.
If you’re looking to travel, move abroad, or adopt a nomadic lifestyle, it may be important to you to find out which countries have the freshest air. You should note that most urban areas, even in countries with relatively low pollution ratings, will have some air quality issues associated with it.
However, there are a few countries that are known for their clean air. In this article, we’ll discuss which countries have the best air quality to help you make the right decision on where to live or visit.
Read on for more information.
Fine Particulate Matter Scores and Why They Matter
Although there isn’t necessarily a consensus on which countries have the freshest air, we need first to need to discuss how air quality is measured. When looking at air quality, you’ll typically be looking at a PM 2.5 rating. PM stands for Particle Matter, and 2.5 means particles less than 2.5 millimeters in diameter. While you can inhale particle matter that’s anything less than 10 millimeters in diameter, particle matter with anything less than 2.5 millimeters is most harmful to your health.
Small particles are more susceptible to getting into your lungs and even into your bloodstream and to cause long-term health issues. Fine particle matters also contribute to low visibility in certain heavily polluted areas. Think of Los Angeles smog or the haze that surrounds Delhi in India. Both of these are based on high levels of PM 2.5.
Generally, the higher the PM score, the more polluted a country is. Pakistan, for example, which is one of the most polluted countries in the world, has a PM2.5 score of 115. Puerto Rico, on the other hand, has a score of 3.7.
1. The World’s Freshest Air: Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands
Puerto Rico isn’t a country unto itself but is a territory of the United States. However, it deserves mention on this list because it has one of the lowest PM2.5 scores globally. As mentioned above, this lush tropical island only has a score of 3.7, making pollution one of the least of the island’s problems.
Also topping the list is the US Virgin Islands, which has a 3.7 PM2.5 score. This is great news for those who love to travel to warm tropical climates and don’t want to worry about breathing in air pollutants as they participate in their outdoor activities.
2. Sweden and Finland
As of 2023, Sweden, tied with Finland, are the two countries with the lowest PM2.5 score. With a score down to 5 in each country, they also have plans to continue to reduce emissions and pollution to attempt to get their score to rival Puerto Rico’s one day.
One reason Sweden’s score is so low has to do with the fact that biking is one of the most popular forms of transportation. This no-emission form of transportation cuts down on car traffic and helps reduce the need for frequent city buses and other transportation.
Finland has been attempting to create so many public transportation options that Helsinki will be car-free by 2025. They aim to get most of its citizens not to own a car because it will become unnecessary due to all of the options.
Norway comes in just behind its Scandinavian neighbors at a PM2.5 score of 5.7. Some of this low score was due to COVID19 lockdowns, as having fewer people out and about meant having fewer emissions in the air. Oslo has been working on reducing its emissions by 95% by 2030 compared to what it produced in 2009. Suffice to say; the country is well on the road to keep its promise.
Estonia comes in just behind Norway at a PM2.5 score of 5.9. One reason its score is so low, environmentalists theorize, is that its capital city wasn’t made or adapted for vehicles. Many of the streets do not have the capacity for cars, so they don’t come into Tallinn, which keeps it cleaner and the emissions reduced.
Estonia also offers free public transportation in some locations, which gives residents an incentive not to take a taxi or drive a car. Why pay if you can get somewhere for free?
5. New Zealand
New Zealand comes behind Estonia with a PM2.5 score of 7. Unlike many other countries, New Zealand naturally has a low PM2.5 score because it is sparsely populated. Even its biggest cities are not as populated as those in other countries helps cut down emissions on its own. However, the government is still running initiatives to help cut down on waste and improve home heating to improve their score.
Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor air pollution can also cause serious health risks that shouldn’t be ignored. No matter where you live, it is important that you keep your air indoors pure, even if you’re lucky enough to live in the US Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico. Have a look at a range of air filters to keep your lungs clean and your health at its best.
Keeping Air Quality High
Which countries and cities have the freshest air is constantly changing due to initiatives and factors outside our control, like the COVID-19 pandemic. But if you’re lucky enough to choose where you live, considering air quality is a great idea to ensure you have a long and healthy life.
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