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Air Pollution in World Cities (PM10 Concentrations)

Authors:David R. Wheeler , Uwe Deichmann , Kiran D. Pandey  and Kirk E. Hamilton
Non-Bank Author:Bart Ostro, Katie Bolt
Web Address:Infrastructure and Environment

Kiran Dev Pandey, David Wheeler, Bart Ostro, Uwe Deichmann, and Kirk Hamilton, Katie Bolt, Ambient Particulate Matter Concentrations in Residential and Pollution Hotspot areas of World Cities:  New Estimates based on the Global Model of Ambient Particulates (GMAPS), The World Bank Development Economics Research Group and the Environment Department Working Paper (forthcoming 2006), The World Bank, Washington DC.

Polluted air is a major health hazard in developing countries.  Improvements in pollution monitoring and statistical techniques during the last several decades have steadily enhanced the ability to measure the health effects of air pollution. Current methods can detect significant increases in the incidence of cardiopulmonary and respiratory diseases, coughing, bronchitis, and lung cancer, as well as premature deaths from these diseases resulting from elevated concentrations of ambient Particulate Matter (Holgate 1999). 

Scarce public resources have limited the monitoring of atmospheric particulate matter (PM) concentrations in developing countries, despite their large potential health effects.  As a result, policymakers in many developing countries remain uncertain about the exposure of their residents to PM air pollution.  The Global Model of Ambient Particulates (GMAPS) is an attempt to bridge this information gap through an econometrically estimated model for predicting PM levels in world cities (Pandey et al. forthcoming).

The estimation model is based on the latest available monitored PM pollution data from the World Health Organization, supplemented by data from other reliable sources.  The current model can be used to estimate PM levels in urban residential areas and non-residential pollution hotspots.  The results of the model are used to project annual average ambient PM concentrations for residential and non-residential areas in 3,226 world cities with populations larger than 100,000, as well as national capitals. 

The study finds wide, systematic variations in ambient PM concentrations, both across world cities and over time.  PM concentrations have risen at a slower rate than total emissions. Overall emission levels have been rising, especially for poorer countries, at nearly 6 percent per year.  PM concentrations have not increased by as much, due to improvements in technology and structural shifts in the world economy.  Additionally, within-country variations in PM levels can diverge greatly (by a factor of 5 in some cases), because of the direct and indirect effects of geo-climatic factors.

The primary determinants of PM concentrations are the scale and composition of economic activity, population, the energy mix, the strength of local pollution regulation, and geographic and atmospheric conditions that affect pollutant dispersion in the atmosphere.

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  • Air Pollution in World Cities database (MS Excel file, 572kb)

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