Monday , July 15 2024

Hanoi air pollution making people sick


For the past two weeks, Linh, 35, has had to turn on humidifiers and air purifiers 24/7 to get a reprieve from her sore throat and congested nose as air quality in Hanoi falls to abysmal levels.

Linh’s family of five in Dong Da District constantly encounters respiratory problems. Linh’s husband, who goes to work early and returns home late, once got severe bronchitis and required several high doses of antibiotics.

Their children, two girls aged 12 and a boy aged 6, had sore throats and high fevers for five days. Linh’s throat was so painful, she found it so difficult to breathe and could not sleep, but she had to try her best to take care of the family.

“I thought we got sick because of the dry and cold weather, but it turns out the bad air quality was to blame as well. We live right next to a construction site, and it is dusty day and night,” she said.

Tien, 55, finds himself in the same predicament. As a motorbike taxi driver, he has to spend tens of thousands of Vietnamese dong every day to purchase masks and saline solutions to protect his nose and eyes, and to wash off the dirt getting to them.

He spends 15 hours, from morning till night, on the street, and his clothes, phones, helmets and gloves always smell of fumes and are full of dust. Besides the run-of-the-mill runny nose, Tien also has rashes all over his body, requiring him to take medicine.

Tien said he was already tired with the pollution he must face every day, but he has no other choice as he’s raising two children. He said he may move back to his hometown in another few years.

Tran Dinh Thang, from the stroke department of the National Geriatric Hospital, said that the respiratory diseases that people like Linh and Tien have been caused by dry and cold weather combined with air pollution, especially high levels of particulate matter.

Over the past week, the number of children and elderly people hospitalized due to coughing and difficulties breathing has increased by 10-15% than usual, sometimes by even 50%.

A report by the World Bank and the Hanoi People’s Committee also revealed that over 40% of people in cities are being exposed to PM2.5 levels that are twice the national standards and much higher than international standards set by the WHO.

It also said that heightened levels of PM2.5 in Hanoi send over 1,000 people to the hospital over cardiovascular problems and 3,000 people due to respiratory problems every year.

Le Hoan, head of the endocrinology and respiratory department of the Hanoi Medical University Hospital, said high levels of fine dust and PM2.5 will reduce vision for people in traffic in the morning. If the particles manage to enter the respiratory tracts, they will cause damage and lead to several respiratory diseases.

“Exposure over long periods of time, diseases will have complications and lead to chronic respiratory diseases,” he said, adding that small enough particles can enter the body’s circulatory system, damaging the cardiovascular system and the brain.

Those with cardiovascular and respiratory problems, pregnant women, children and elderly people are more sensitive to such particles. With prolonged exposure, the dust may even lead to miscarriages for pregnant women or disabilities for their newborns.

Experts recommend people to wear masks while going out to minimize dust exposure, as well as avoiding going into traffic during rush hours or entering frequently polluted areas, like industrial parks or highways.

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