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Hanoi's Air Quality Ranked Second-Worst in the World Yesterday

It’s hard to feel optimistic about Vietnam’s public health these days, what with the country recently making the list of top 10 global alcohol consumers and food safety a continued concern. Now, to add to these concerns, Hanoi’s air pollution was so bad on Wednesday that the capital became the second-most polluted city in the world, according to a global air quality index.

Specifically, the air quality index (AQI) in Hanoi yesterday morning read 245, indicating “very unhealthy” levels of smog, reports VnExpress. This reading placed the city behind only India’s Ardali Bazar, which topped the chart at 471. China’s Chengdu and Beijing also made the list, recording 176 and 152, respectively. According to AirNow, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality website, a “very unhealthy” reading – from 201 to 300 – signifies a dangerous level of pollution that may cause serious respiratory issues for everyone, not just vulnerable individuals.

The reading came from an air monitoring system stationed within the US Embassy at 7 Lang Ha and was analyzed by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to VnTinNhanh.

This ranking originated from Aqicn.org, which uses data collected from the Vietnam Center for Environment Monitoring under the Environment Ministry, the United Nations International School of Hanoi and the US Embassy in Hanoi, VnExpress reports. The Beijing-based global index also collects readings from US embassies in China and environmental agencies worldwide to assess air pollution in 60 countries.

This, however, was not a record for Hanoi’s air pollution, as last March the capital’s AQI surged to 388, reaching the “hazardous” level, which signals a health emergency. Most of Southeast Asia is also suffering from similar pollution, according to a recent WHO study which shows that nearly two-thirds of air pollution-related deaths take place in the Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions.

Nonetheless, VnTinNhanh quoted a statement by the US Embassy which stressed that despite the grim result, the reading doesn’t reflect a complete picture of the city’s pollution as it is only based on one location.

Hoang Duong Tung, deputy director of the Environment Department at the Ministry of Resources and Environment, also echoed the embassy’s assessment. He believes that the 245 reading only shows the immediate level of pollution and is not conclusive proof that Hanoi is the second-most polluted city in the world.

“The AQI usually shows a daily average, not an hourly average. The monitoring system will record [air quality] every five minutes to calculate the hourly average to eventually show the daily average,” Tung told the news source. “Even a breeze can give the index a boost.”

He also added that Hanoi’s air could be getting worse due to the shift in seasonal weather patterns to a drier climate, as well as farmers in nearby provinces burning hay.

[Photo via VietnamNet]


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