Mar 26, 2024 - News

Philadelphia's air quality worsened in 2023

Average air quality in major U.S. cities, 2023
Data: IQAir; Note: Among cities with at least 500k metro-area residents; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Philadelphia's average air quality got worse in 2023, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s new report.

Why it matters: Air pollution is the world's leading environmental health threat, causing 6.7 million premature deaths every year, according to WHO estimates.

How it works: The report from IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company, examines the average level of fine particles less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in diameter — a particularly dangerous form of air pollution because the solid and liquid specks can penetrate deep into lung passageways.

  • Inhalation of PM2.5 can exacerbate preexisting lung and heart conditions. Evidence suggests it can also have neurological effects.

By the numbers: Philly's PM2.5 levels averaged 11.9 in 2023, two to three times higher than the WHO recommends and up from 9.1 in 2022.

Zoom in: Philly's PM2.5 levels have fluctuated over the years, averaging 11.5 in 2021 and 9.5 in 2020.

Zoom out: Columbus, Ohio, had the worst air quality in 2023 in U.S. cities with at least 500,000 residents (13.9), followed by the Lancaster, Pennsylvania metro area (13.6).

The big picture: Most American cities had levels two to three times higher than the WHO's guidelines.

Go deeper

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found

Philadelphiapostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more