breathe the air

Try not to breathe the air in these South African cities. Image: File/Fotor

Try NOT to breathe the air in these South African cities

World Air Quality report suggests you shouldn’t breathe the air in these cities. Plus, the town in Gauteng with the most polluted air of all.

breathe the air

Try not to breathe the air in these South African cities. Image: File/Fotor

If you live in one of the following South African cities and you battle to breathe the air, it’s no coincidence. A new World Air Quality Report by IQAir has revealed the best and worst towns and cities in South Africa to breathe the air, reports Business Tech.

The report states that air quality overall in South Africa has improved by 14.8% in two years. However, there are multiple cities and towns across the country where you wouldn’t want to breathe the air. Moreover, one town in Gauteng has the worst air quality in all of Africa …


breathe the air
If you breathe the air in a polluted area it can exacerbate conditions like asthma, lung disease, cancer and heart problems. Image: File

Delving into the minutiae of the report, South Africa is 47 out of 134 countries globally for air pollution levels, and 16th on the African continent. That may not sound too bad, but that does put us in the top third of heaviest polluters worldwide. Our air contains pollution that is four-times higher than the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended amount.

The report notes that when you breathe the air in a polluted city, exposure leads to and exacerbates numerous health conditions. These include asthma, cancer, stroke, and lung disease. So, be careful …


breathe the air
Emissions rise from the cooling towers of the Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. Matla coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

In terms of South Africa, Pretoria continues an impressive trend of air pollution reduction which began in 2019 and has not slowed (a 17.2% overall decrease). The best air quality can be found in Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape and Bot Rivier in the Western Cape (the only two towns to come in below the WHO recommended figure).

The worst air is in Benoni, Gauteng, which ranks as the dirtiest in all of Africa. Benoni is closely followed by Bloemfontein in the Free State. Worryingly, Bloemfontein has seen an increase of more than three times its pollution concentration since 2022. We wonder what’s cause for this rapid increase.


breathe the air
Coal mining and powers stations in Secunda, Mpumalanga. Image: JAMES OATWAY for CER

“Two of the biggest contributors to air pollution in South Africa are coal-powered and industrial plants, especially in the Northern provinces. Fossil fuels fulfil 90% of the country’s energy demand, leading to South Africa being the continent’s largest emitter of sulphur dioxide. As a major carbon dioxide emitter, the country is the 12th biggest greenhouse gas polluter in the world,” concluded the report.


Globally, the countries with the worst air quality are:

  • Bangladesh.
  • Pakistan.
  • India.
  • Tajikistan.
  • Burkina Faso.

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