Air quality in Brazil

Air quality index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Brazil

Last update at (local time)


Real-time Brazil
Most polluted city ranking

#cityUS AQI
1 Campinas, Sao Paulo


2 Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro


3 Manaus, Amazonas


4 Rio Branco, Acre


5 Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo


6 Recife, Pernambuco


7 Cruzeiro do Sul, Acre


(local time)



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Real-time Brazil
Cleanest city ranking

#cityUS AQI
1 Cruzeiro do Sul, Acre


2 Recife, Pernambuco


3 Rio Branco, Acre


4 Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo


5 Manaus, Amazonas


6 Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro


7 Campinas, Sao Paulo


(local time)


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How polluted is Brazil?

The national flag of International

2022 Air quality average

Human face indicating AQI level


2022 average US AQI





2022 average PM2.5 concentration in Brazil: 2.4 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value

2022  Brazil cleanest city Pianco , Paraiba


2022  Brazil most polluted city Acrelandia , Acre


2022 aqi country ranking

How does Brazil rank globally in air pollution?

81/ 131 countries ranked in 2022

Which country had the worst air quality in 2022?

1The national flag of InternationalChad17,179,740


2The national flag of InternationalIraq43,533,592


3The national flag of InternationalPakistan231,402,117


4The national flag of InternationalBahrain1,463,265


5The national flag of InternationalBangladesh169,356,251


6The national flag of InternationalBurkina Faso22,100,683


7The national flag of InternationalKuwait4,250,114


8The national flag of InternationalIndia1,407,563,842


9The national flag of InternationalEgypt109,262,178


10The national flag of InternationalTajikistan9,750,064


81The national flag of InternationalBrazil214,326,223



How to best protect from air pollution?

Reduce your air pollution exposure in Brazil


Does Brazil have polluted air?

Brazil is a country located in South America, officially known as the Federative Republicof Brazil. It is the largest country in south America, with approximately 211million inhabitants, making it the 6th most populous country in theworld. It borders on a majority of the other countries located on thecontinent, having the largest economy in Latin America as well as an abundanceof natural resources. As a country that is experiencing rapid growth and urbanization,along with the accompanying rural to urban migration occurring, Brazil issubject to some pollutive issues that come naturally with these changes.

Regarding its levels of pollution and air quality, Brazil came in over 2019 with a PM2.5reading of 15.77 μg/m³, putting it into the ‘moderate’ pollution bracket, whichrequires a reading of anywhere between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classed assuch. This means that Brazil came in on the lower end of this rating, makingits air quality not overtly detrimental, but at the same time it may causeissues for those who are sensitive to chemical pollutants, as well asvulnerable demographics such as the young, the elderly and those withrespiratory diseases or compromised immune systems.

This reading of 15.77 μg/m³ also put Brazil into 63rd place out of all countriesranked worldwide, coming in just behind other countries such as Angola andSlovakia, which had PM2.5 readings of 15.90 μg/m³ and 16.10 μg/m³ respectively.PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less indiameter. With its incredibly small size, it has a whole host of negativeeffects on the health of anyone who respires it, and due to this it is used asa major component when calculating the overall air quality, or US AQI. Thereare also other factors involved in overall pollution levels, with largerparticles such as PM10 (which whilst dangerous do not cause as much damage astheir smaller counterparts) as well as chemical compounds such as ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Brazil had many of its cities come in with good air quality ratings, with a large amountof them having several months of the year fall within the World HealthOrganizations target goal of 0 to 10 μg/m³, which is a very respectable qualityof air. Even the most polluted city in Brazil (as of 2019), Campinas, saw a WHOtarget goal in the month of February, with an exact reading of 10 μg/m³.

However, a majority of the months of the year throughout all cities in Brazil came in withmoderate rankings of pollution, showing the despite periods of very good airquality, there are some pollutive issues abound in the city, which will bediscussed in short.

What are the main causes of pollution in Brazil?

With such significant landmass, and diversity of environments, the causes of pollution inBrazil are numerous as well as fairly unique in some regards, with the countryas a whole relying a lot on ethanol for many of its fuel sources, and as suchthe pollutants and contaminants in the air differ from those of othercountries, although there are still many similar causes of pollution thatBrazil shares with the rest of the world.

One of these would be vehicular emissions and fumes, a major cause of pollution that isinescapable from round the world. With a fundamental lack of infrastructurecatering towards public transport, as well as an abundance of low price (andlow quality) fuels available, Brazil has tended towards a heavy reliance onvehicles, and as such much of its year-round ambient pollution levels wouldstem from the fumes and smoke emitted from automobiles, with many cars,motorbikes and heavy duty vehicles such as lorries, buses and trucks allinhabiting the roads, travelling the width of the country as well as acrossborders for reasons such as trade and travel (although this travel came to asignificant halt in 2020 due to the outbreak of covid-19, with Brazil being heavily affected by it).

Many of these vehicles are of an older and more ancient variety, more prominently so in ruralareas. Besides running on the aforementioned unique ethanol based fuels, othersources of vehicular pollution would come from ones that run on fossil fuels,particularly low quality diesel fuel, all of which give off their fair share of pollutants.

Other causes of pollution in the country include factories and industrial areas, many ofwhich run on fossil fuels once again, such as coal. This in turn leads to highamounts of noxious smoke and haze entering the atmosphere, with many of thesefactories having little to no regulations on what their pollutive output is,although this is currently changing in more modern times with certain citiestaking steps towards getting these issues under control, particularly when thefallout from it is observed (with heavy metals, burnt plastics and othersources of toxic pollutants causing birth defects and large scale damage to theenvironment being enough to attract the right attention that eventually brings an end to such practices).

The wide variety of factories, besides putting out pollution caused by the combustion offossil fuels, all give off their own unique industrial effluence pertaining towhatever materials are being produced (for example plastic or metal recyclingplants often give off plastic fumes, or volatile organic compounds that arisefrom the burning of metals covered in lacquer or varnish).

Lastly, other sources would include ones such as poorly maintained construction sites, thatcan give off large amounts of fine particulate matters as well as heavy metalsand microplastics, and the burning of organic materials such as wood and otherplant matter in rural or lower income areas for the purpose of cooking,heating, or clearing land for farming or other similar use.

Whilst manmade pollution issues taking the top spots, the occasional natural fire can occurthat will cause PM2.5 levels to skyrocket in the particular area, as well ascausing heavy pollutive issues for any cities nearby due to the effects of windblowing pollution towards larger cities, whereby it gets trapped in the atmosphere.

When is pollution in Brazil at its worst?

Observing the data given over 2019 across the various cities, Brazil appears to have itsworst pollution episodes towards the mid to end part of the year, with PM2.5levels rising above what their normal numbers are for the rest of the year.

To use some cities as examples, the most polluted city in 2019, Campinas can once again becited. Its highest pollution levels were observed in the mid portion of theyear, with January through to April all being the cleanest before making adecline in air quality, with May through to August having the highest readingsof pollution with recordings of 24.7 μg/m³ in May and 27.7 μg/m³ in June,making June the most polluted month of the year (whilst February was the cleanest).

To cite a city on the opposite end of the spectrum, Ribeirao came in as the cleanest cityin 2019 with an average of 8.2 μg/m³, a reading that sits nicely within theWHO’s target goal. It too displayed its cleanest readings at the beginning andend of the year, with the mid to late months coming in with higher readings,with July through to September starting its decline with readings of 11.2 μg/m³,10.7 μg/m³ and 15.7 μg/m³ all coming in respectively, making September the most polluted month for Ribeirao.

Of note is that due to Brazil's massive size, the diversity between pollution causes aswell as geographical features and meteorological conditions, there are largedifferences between the cities, but as stated there does seem to be a distinctpattern of worser readings of pollution in the mid to late part of the year.Further examples are Sao Paulo, with its most polluted month coming in duringJuly at 20.8 μg/m³, with another city such as Santos coming in with its worst reading in June at 22.9 μg/m³.

What are some of the main pollutants found in the air in Brazil?

With much of its pollution coming from sources such as vehicular emissions as well as smokefrom factories, Brazil would have some pollutants that are fairly prominent inits atmosphere. They would include the aforementioned nitrogen dioxide, as wellas sulfur dioxide (SO2), both of which are found in higherquantities in areas that see larger volumes of cars and other automobiles.Nitrogen dioxide is particularly pertinent here, often correlating directlywith heavy car usage, so much so to the point that its concentration in theatmosphere can be used to accurately detect how much pollution is coming from vehicle usage alone.

Some unique ones that would arise from the use of ethanol based products and fuels would beconcentrations of acetaldehyde, vaporized forms of pure ethanol as well asnitrogen oxides. Others that arise from lower quality fuel use as well as theburning of organic materials would be carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3)polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and fine particulate matter such as blackcarbon, which can arise from numerous sources including factory fumes, carsmoke, open burn sites and construction areas. It is a major component of sootand is often found in blanketed on areas that see high volumes of traffic, insome cases mixing with other fine particles or chemicals emitted from carexhaust to create even more dangerous forms of PM2.5 or PM10.

Pollution released from forest fires, or the burning of wood or other forms of biomasscan lead to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), some of whichinclude formaldehyde, benzene, methylene chloride, toluene as well as xylene,all of which can have disastrous effects when inhaled over longer periods oftime, as well as prominent short term issues involved. Of note is that VOC’scan be found within people’s homes, often emanating from household items suchas recently painted surfaces, varnished woods, cosmetic products and other suchsimilar materials, something to take into consideration for a cleaner home environment.

Is the air quality in Brazil improving?

Looking at the data taken over the last few years, it appears that there have beenmarginal improvements in the quality of Brazil's air. In 2018, Brazil came inwith a PM2.5 reading of 16.29 μg/m³, which was then subsequently followed bythe more recent reading of 15.77 μg/m³. Whilst this represents only a marginalgain, when it comes to matters of air pollution, any level of improvement canbe seen a positive step in the right direction, particularly in recent yearswhen air pollution has become a greater concern for many countries round the world.

What are some health issues associated with pollution in Brazil?

Whilst Brazil does not see catastrophic levels of pollution that are present in othercountries such as Afghanistan or Bangladesh, which both had average PM2.5 readingsof 58.80 μg/m³ and 83.30 μg/m³, as well as having certain months of their yearcome in with massive readings such as 181.8 μg/m³ in January in Bangladesh, itcan be stated that any reading of PM2.5 that goes over the WHO’s target of 10 μg/m³or less may present problems to human health, as well as the environment, withvegetation and animal ecosystems all being subject to greater dangers.

With readings as high as 47.6 μg/m³ coming in during August in Rio Branco, as well as othercities having numbers of PM2.5 going up to 27.7 μg/m³ in Campinas, the healtheffects that may follow would be raised instances of cancer, particularly thatof the lungs but also of the throat, stomach, skin and blood.

With fine particulate matter in the air, scarring and rapid aging of the lungs can occur,which can not only reduce the lungs full capacity to take in oxygen, but canalso cause further instances of respiratory conditions such as bronchitis,pneumonia, aggravated asthma attacks and emphysema to occur. Other conditionswould include ischemic heart disease, caused by a lack of oxygen to the hearttissues, as well as other cardiac events such as heart attacks and arrythmias.

Expectant mothers may find themselves at risks of having a miscarriage, or their childbeing born prematurely with a low birth weight, bring up the overall mortalityrate related to pollution as well as causing possible lifelong cognitive andphysical defects to the younger generation, as well as any of those exposed toareas high in smoke, haze, plastic or industrial fumes as well as the manydifferent dangerous materials being burnt.

Brazil air quality data attribution


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