Air pollution in Vietnam cities hit unhealthy levels: government study

By Pham Huong   September 30, 2016 | 11:03 am GMT+7
Air pollution in Vietnam cities hit unhealthy levels: government study
The air in Ho Chi Minh City is filled with exceeding amount of poisonous gases and fine dirt. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Nguyen

It's getting harder to breathe in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Here's the proof.

Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the beloved tourist destination Ha Long are being plagued by severe air pollution, according to a new study released Thursday.

The environment ministry’s study between 2011 and 2015 found the air quality has become worse in many urban areas, especially the two largest cities and Ha Long.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration in Hanoi was measured at up to 1.3 times above the permitted levels and in Ha Long 1.2 times. In Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 it has been found at twice the permitted level.

High levels of nitrogen dioxide increase the chance of respiratory problems. It inflames the lining of the lungs, and can reduce immunity to lung infections, causing problems such as wheezing, coughing, cold, flu and bronchitis. Children, people with asthma and old people with heart problems are most at risk.

Hoang Duong Tung, the deputy director of the Vietnam Environment Administration, said traffic and industrial activities are major sources of air pollution in Hanoi and HCMC. The problem in Ha Long comes from coal mining and thermal power plants.

Around 140 new cars and 750 new motorbikes are registered every day in HCMC, which is the most crowded city in Vietnam with 12 million people including migrants.

The Real-time Air Quality Index on aqicn.org on Friday morning ranked the pollution level in HCMC as “unhealthy,” which means outdoor exertion should be limited for children and people with respiratory problems. The index measures air pollution in 60 countries worldwide. The team is mainly based in Beijing, China, using measurements provided by the U.S. diplomatic mission in China and environment protection agencies worldwide.

Hanoi’s air has also been repeatedly ranked as unhealthy and at times “hazardous,” which means everyone should avoid outdoor exertion. The capital now has 5.5 million individual vehicles including more than 4.9 million motorbikes, or more than 70 cars and nearly 700 motorbikes for every one kilometer of road.

The new study from the environment ministry also measured high levels of fine dirt which can cause lung cancer.

The amount of particulate matters equal or less than 10 micrometers (PM10) measured in Hanoi was up to 1.4 times above the safe limit. PM10 are among the most harmful of all pollutants as they are just about a seventh the thickness of a human hair and when inhaled can evade the respiratory system’s natural defenses and lodge deep in the lungs.

A station in Ha Long has measured the particles at 1.2 times more than standard.

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