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Choking smog makes Hanoi's pollution 'very unhealthy'

Choking smog makes Hanoi's pollution 'very unhealthy'
Hanoi air in a morning this week. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Air pollution in Hanoi reached dangerous levels on Wednesday morning, when it was ranked the second most polluted among cities monitored under a global air quality study.

The Real-time Air Quality Index on aqicn.org in the morning ranked pollution in the capital as “very unhealthy”, an emergency level to warn everyone, especially children, to limit outdoor activities.

Aqicn.org uses data collected from the Vietnam Center for Environment Monitoring under the Environment Ministry, the United Nations International School of Hanoi and the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi. The global index is mainly based in Beijing and uses measurements provided by the U.S. diplomatic mission in China and environmental agencies worldwide to measure air pollution in 60 countries.

On Wednesday morning, the index in Hanoi reached an alarming 245, the second highest of all cities recorded the same morning. The air pollution index hit 471 in Ardali Bazar, India, 176 in Chengdu, China, and 152 in Beijing.

The capital’s air quality is forecast to deteriorate and hit 250 on Friday morning.

Hanoi’s suffocating air has persisted for decades as has repeatedly been classified as unhealthy and at times “hazardous”, which means everyone should avoid outdoor exertion.

A study conducted by the ministry between 2011 and 2015 found that air quality in the city is getting worse in many urban areas, with levels of poisonous nitrogen oxide and fine dirt, which can cause severe respiratory problems and lung cancer, exceeding safe levels.

Jacques Moussafir, director of French company ARIA Technologies, which specializes in pollutant dispersion and air quality, said in 2012 Hanoi’s pollution was as bad as New Delhi and Karachi, two of the 10 most polluted cities in the world.

He warned that the number of people suffering from severe respiratory and mental health damage from air pollution would double in 2020 if nothing is done to fix the problem.

Little has been done, especially with the traffic problem. The city has 5.5 million vehicles including more than 4.9 million motorbikes, equivalent to 70 cars and nearly 700 motorbikes for every one kilometer of road.

Officials said road works and industrial operations that pay little regard to the environment have also worsened the situation.

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