New York City has the worst air quality in the world right now


New York City has ranked as either the top or second most polluted city in the world Wednesday, changing places with Delhi, India, for the dubious honor.

New York, in a twist of weather fate, is the recipient of drifting wildfire smoke from what’s shaping up to be the worst fire season in Canada’s history as climate change and other factors contribute to hot air and drought. And the season is only getting started.

An afternoon measurement from the international site, IQ Air, shows New York City ranking first by quite a margin for worst air globally. Detroit earlier in the day ranked within the top 5 before easing back to 23rd place.

Portland, Ore., ranked at 83rd, and Seattle was 87th on Wednesday morning. Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco all were in the top 100, bumped higher among the hundreds of polluted cities in the world Wednesday.

Read: How dangerous is U.S. air from Canada’s wildfires? Here’s how to read the EPA’s Air-Quality Index.

The higher the value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern.

The Environmental Protection Agency operates its own U.S.-based Air-Quality Index resources. The EPA says to think of the AQI as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500.

New York City’s ranking on both tools was well above 300 Wednesday. Its highest rating last year was a single day that reached 160.

For further comparison, the record-setting western U.S. wildfire years of 2020 and 2021 meant that outdoor air near Portland, Ore., on select days produced an AQI above 400.

Remembering the severity of number ranges may be challenging, so EPA has assigned a color to each range, with green and yellow representing the most favorable conditions, and orange, red, purple and maroon reflective of levels that are progressively worse, topping out at maroon readings between 301 to 500.

Visit the EPA’s Air Now site for the latest readings around the country.

You can also examine longer-term air quality by select region.


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