Vietnam's major cities choking as pollution exacerbates

By Pham Huong   July 20, 2017 | 09:22 pm PT
Vietnam's major cities choking as pollution exacerbates
Air pollution has get worse in cities across Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/LH
Urban areas are polluted by transportation, industrial production and daily activities.

Air pollution has been getting worse across Vietnam over the past five years, breaching acceptable levels in the country's major cities, according to a government report released on Thursday.

From 2012-2016, the total suspended particles (TSP) level, which is used to measure the mass concentration of particulate matter (PM) in the air, exceeded safe levels by 2-3 times in Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City, and 1.5-2 times in other cities.

In its air quality guidelines, the World Health Organization says levels of fine particles known as PM2.5 should not be more than 10 micrograms per cubic meter on average over a year, and slightly larger pollutants, called PM10, should not reach more than 20 micrograms per cubic meter on average.

The government report said that these indicators were exceeded 20 percent of the time in Hanoi and HCMC.

Hoang Duong Tung, a senior environment official, said urban areas in Vietnam are being polluted by transportation, industrial production and daily activities.

“PM2.5 can get into the lungs and cause a number of diseases, including lung cancer,” he was quoted as saying in a VietnamPlus report on Thursday.

Official data from the health ministry shows 3-4 percent of the country's population contract respiratory diseases every year, mostly in urban areas.

In April, a study by the Hanoi-based Green Innovation and Development Center found that ambient air pollution in Hanoi exceeded the WHO's standards on 78 days from January to March, which matches the government's new report.

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

There are more than five million motorbikes on Hanoi’s roads, and 19,000 new vehicles are registered each month. Around 140 new cars and 750 new motorbikes are also registered every day in Saigon, Vietnam's most crowded city with a population of 12 million people.

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 conducted by the Health Effects Institute, a Boston research facility focused on the health impacts of air pollution, and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle.

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

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