The World Health Organization recently published an interactive map (click the image below) based on their “Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database,” which contains data on the concentration (micrograms per meter cubed) of particles less than 10 microns in diameter (1/7th the diameter of human hair) around the world, also known as PM10. Since major sources of these particles include motor vehicles, wood burning stoves/fireplaces, construction/agricultural/landfill dust, waste burning, and industrial sources, PM10 concentration is a good proxy for pollution level.
Apart from China, which has made news on repeated occasions for air pollution, I was particularly struck by the levels of pollution in Saharan Africa, the Persian Gulf, and within India. I can only imagine the human health health and ecosystemic effects of contaminated air in these regions. Of note, however, the vast majority of activities that result in PM10 production are tied in some way or another to economic productivity. Innovation at the level of technology, business, and governmental policy is clearly in need to enable less environmentally deleterious means of economic productivity in these regions of the world.