Levels of fine particles in Ho Chi Minh city has been falling
Air pollution is a major health concern worldwide, with around 60,000 deaths annually in Vietnam. The World Health Organization has found that air quality in Hanoi and HCMC are among the worst in Asia.
The University of Science in HCMC has conducted a survey which reveals that levels of particulate matter, specifically PM2.5, have been on the decline in the past three years. Ho Chi Minh city levels peaked at 25.9 μg/m3 in 2019 and have since decreased to 23.1 μg/m3 in 2020 and 22 μg/m3 by 2022. Residents are advised to avoid going outside during peak hours when levels are highest to avoid exposure to harmful particulates that can potentially cause severe health damages.
Air pollution is caused by man-made sources, like meat burning, smoking, and especially from factories and vehicles. It can also react under different environmental conditions to create even more dangerous substances. As urban areas are expanded, people will spend more time on the street, increasing risks of exposure to pollutants. Urban planners need to adopt strategic visions in order to alleviate this problem.
Among the many things that particulate matter may contain, inorganic substances like metals, organic substances like aromatic compounds and dioxides, and even living beings like viruses or molds are all worrisome. "We found 15 metals among the PAHs, including mercury. Many substances that are potentially mutagenic and carcinogenic are found in high levels," said To Thi Hien, subject head of Environment Technology. However, the most alarming is a substance that has been detected among particulate matter in both Hanoi and HCMC, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are highly toxic. In the short term, Hien believed Vietnam needed to quickly monitor motorbike emissions and even impose limits on motorbikes for downtown areas, or supporting public transport.
Gaelle Uzu, a researcher at the Institute for Environmental Geosciences of Universite Grenoble Alpes, believed it's important to determine the components of pollutants so that we can understand their impacts on people's health and the environment, and find the sources of these pollutants.