Hanoi slowly choking on rising air pollution

The large number of vehicles is often blamed for severe air pollution in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh


A new study has found that air quality in the capital can soar up to 10 times higher than World Health Organization limits.

A new study to measure the air quality in Vietnam’s major cities has found that pollution levels during the first three months of the year hit levels classified as “very harmful” more often than a year ago in Hanoi.

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From January to March, ambient air pollution in the capital exceeded the World Health Organization’s standards on 78 days, the study by the Hanoi-based Green Innovation and Development Center (GreenID) at the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations found.

Ambient air pollution is measured by the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), a fraction of the width of a human hair which is released from vehicles, industry and natural sources like dust.

The PM2.5 concentration in Hanoi on February 15 was 234 μg/m3, the study found. The WHO limit is 25 μg/m3.

Nguy Thi Khanh, director of the center, told a conference on Wednesday that pollution had hit levels that were “very harmful to health” on multiple occasions.

The study said air quality in Ho Chi Minh City was better than in Hanoi, but the ambient air pollution also exceeded the WHO limit on 78 days.

The Real-Time Air Quality Index on aqicn.org forecasts that pollution levels in Hanoi will hit “very unhealthy” levels this Sunday and Monday, so people should stay indoors and limit outdoor activity.

The index measures air pollution in 60 countries worldwide. The team is mainly based in Beijing, and uses measurements provided by the U.S. diplomatic mission in China and environmental protection agencies worldwide.

Khanh said Vietnam needs to reduce its urban pollution with strict rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions and develop clean energy.

There are more than 5 million motorbikes on Hanoi’s roads and as many as 19,000 new vehicles are registered each month.

Around 140 new cars and 750 new motorbikes are also registered every day in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s most crowded city with 12 million people.

An environment ministry study between 2011 and 2015 released last September also warned that air quality has become worse in many urban areas, especially the two largest cities.

In February, a global environment study measured Vietnam’s air pollution as the second deadliest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia in terms of the raw number of premature deaths.

Deaths attributable to dangerous air particles in Vietnam jumped 60 percent from 26,300 in 1990 to 42,200 in 2015, according to the study by the Health Effects Institute, a Boston research institute focused on the health impacts of air pollution, and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle.

Ambient particulate matter ranks fifth among risk factors for total deaths around the world, after high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol.

-VNExpress

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