ISLAMABAD: Rawalpindi and Peshawar have been named among the list of five most polluted cities in the world, according to the latest air quality report by World Health Organisation (WHO) released this month.

Peshawar is surveyed second worst city for third consecutive year, with an annual average particulate matter (PM) 2.5 measurement of 540 (2016), 540 (2014) and 219 (2011) respectively.

According to the WHO’s 2016 report, Onitsha, Nigeria has the dirtiest air with an annual average PM2.5 measurement of 594 followed by Peshawar, Pakistan (540), Zabol, Iran (527), Rawalpindi, Pakistan (448), Kaduna, Nigeria (423), Aba, Nigeria (373), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (368), Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia (359), Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan (334) and Gwalior, India (329).

WHO’s database now covers 3000 cities in 103 countries with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts.

The report says that more than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.

The report says that as urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.

The WHO says more than 7 million premature deaths occur every year due to air pollution, 3 million of them due to outdoor air quality.

Common causes of air pollution include too many cars, especially diesel-fuelled vehicles, the heating and cooling of big buildings, waste management, agriculture and the use of coal or diesel generators for power.