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Tet Traffic Blamed for Hanoi's 'Very Unhealthy' Air Quality

Dangerous smog has throttled the nation's capital in recent days in part due to traffic related to the upcoming lunar new year. 

Air Quality Index levels, as monitored by the independent, have hit distressing levels across the city in recent days, according to VnExpress. On Tuesday afternoon at the US Embassy, for example, the number hit 154, a level deemed "unhealthy" and should force elderly people and those with respiratory illnesses to stay indoors. On Sunday afternoon, on Pham Van Dong Street, a sensor recorded a reading of 240, which is categorized as "very unhealthy." As of Thursday morning at 8am, the Embassy is reporting a "moderate" 93.

In addition to general pollution, there has been an increase in PM2.5, which are minuscule dust particles that linger in the air longer than normal dust and can infiltrate deep into a human's lungs and blood. Seventy percent of PM2.5 in the air can be attributed to vehicle exhaust fumes. 

"High demand for travel in the lead up to Tet, Vietnam’s biggest and most important holiday, has resulted in increasing number of private vehicles on the road, causing dirty air in the capital," explains Hoang Duong Tung, a senior environment official. Authorities also cited cold weather as exacerbating the problem.

The city has made efforts to make transportation efficient during the holidays alongside ongoing efforts to cut down on the amount of pollution-causing vehicles in the city. Unfortunately, neither holiday traffic nor air pollution are new occurrences. Every year, traffic clogs streets during Tet and year-round air quality has been dismal for quite some time. In 2017 for example, the World Health Organization observed pollution was four times above acceptable levels

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