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Dec 16, 2019 / 13:38

Health ministry advises limiting outdoors actitivities amid hazardous air pollution in Hanoi

The health ministry advised children, seniors and individuals with heart or lung diseases to stay indoors and avoid sustained and high-intensity outdoor activities.

Air pollution indexes in Hanoi city have climbed to alarming levels for six days now, prompting the Ministry of Health (MoH) to warn people to limit their exposure to open air and protect themselves against air pollutants, local media reported.

The capital's Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded at above 200 over the recent six days at 10 air monitoring stations placed throughout the city. The level has stayed consistently high between midnight until noon.

A corner of Hanoi in a shroud of haze in the morning. Photo: Gia Nghia

At this level, the MoH advised children, seniors and individuals with heart or lung diseases to stay indoors and avoid sustained and high-intensity outdoor activities.

In case of going out, people should use PM2.5 dust-proof face masks and should travel by car or bus. Drivers are advised to strictly abide by traffic law to reduce traffic congestion.

The MoH recommends that Hanoi’s residents should learn about air quality information in their surroundings before going out. Information on the capital city’s air quality is continuously updated at the website: https://moitruongthudo.vn/ and https://airhanoi.hanoi.gov.vn/.

Besides, it is advisable to clean the nose, mouth, throat, and eyes with physiological saline, especially after going out and before going to bed.

For smokers, the MoH recommends quitting or limiting smoking, while non-smokers should stay away from the smoking environment.

People should not open windows and doors when the air is seriously polluted, especially households which are near roads and polluted areas. They are asked to plant trees in and around their houses to help prevent dust and clean the air.

The MoH also warned people to avoid burning waste, cooking by charcoal stoves, transporting construction waste without shielding to avoid dust emission.

 Data: AEP. Table: Anh Kiet

According to forecasts from the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecast, this was the period with the highest level of pollution in the year. It is predicted that weather conditions will not change much in the coming days and Hanoi’s air quality will maintain at this level until it rains or the northeast monsoon intensifies from December 18.

Hoang Duong Tung, president of Vietnam Clear Air Partnership, who has spent many years researching air quality in Vietnam, told VnExpress that Hanoi and other parts of the northern region are in the dry season and a period of seasonal transition when air pollution is usually at its highest level of the year.
Hanoi's air quality has been returning to 'hazardous levels' since December 10, and has only gotten worse since, Tung added.

"It can be seen that the air quality in Hanoi this year has been continuously polluted. I think it is necessary to seriously talk about the sources of pollution and seek emergency measures to tackle it," he said.

Tung noted Hanoi is not taking the matter seriously. "There's been no major inspection on environment standards at construction sites for example."

He said the authorities are creating the mindset that air pollution is a natural problem that people have to live with, while it comes mostly from human activities.

Air pollution is not new in Hanoi, but it has become an urgent matter lately. High levels of pollutants and smog have been seen in recent months, reaching a five-year high in September.

Officials have said the low quality of air in Hanoi is caused by construction, a growing number of cars and motorcycles and heavy industry, including steel works, cement factories and coal-fired power plants in neighboring provinces. However, they have not outlined any comprehensive plan to deal with the causes of pollution.

Hanoi with eight million people has more than five million motorbikes and nearly 600,000 cars, and the number of private vehicles is increasing 4.6% a year.