Air Pollution In Vietnamese Cities Threatens Young Lungs


Air pollution in urban areas is taking a toll on Vietnam’s next generation as a government report reveals children in Vietnam’s biggest cities are exposed to higher risks of respiratory diseases.

According to the report on Vietnam’s environmental situation from 2012-2016, released on July 20, the rate of people with respiratory diseases in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai Province and Hai Phong City is higher than that in other cities and provinces.

It says diseases related to air pollution are increasing among children, including asthma, tuberculosis, pneumonia, respiratory tract infection, cerebral palsy and cancer.

From 2012-2016, the total suspended particles (TSP) level, which is used to measure the mass concentration of particulate matter (PM) in the air, exceeded safe levels by 2-3 times in Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang and HCMC, and 1.5-2 times in other cities, as reported by VnExpress.

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Hoang Duong Tung, deputy chief of the Vietnam Environment Administration, told the press urban areas in Vietnam are polluted due to traffic, industrial production, waste treatment and daily activities.

“Official data from the Health Ministry shows 3-4 percent of the country's population contract respiratory diseases every year, mostly in urban areas,” he said.

According to a World Health Organization’s report released in March, more than 1 in 4 deaths of children under five years of age are attributed to unhealthy environment such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene, with 1.7 million child deaths under five years annually.

It also said 570,000 children under the age of five die from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke.

The harm from air pollution can begin in the womb and increase the risk of premature birth. After birth, air pollution raises the risk of pneumonia, a major cause of death for those under five, and of chronic lung conditions such as asthma. It may also increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer later in life.

Motorbikes the main culprit

Motorbikes have been identified as the main source of emissions in Vietnam, followed by cars and buses. We may be familiar with “zombie” motorbikes on the street, and other old motorbikes that consume more fuel and thus cause greater emissions.

In Hanoi and HCMC, frequent traffic congestions due to a large population; poor traffic infrastructure; as well as limited awareness on driving etiquette worsen air pollution.

Nguyen Duc Chung, chairman of Hanoi People’s Committee, in February this year, said that expired motorbikes and cars are the main source of air pollution in Hanoi.

He said Hanoi has around six million motorbikes, of which 2.5 million have expired even before 2000 but are still on the roads today.

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He admitted that the process of revocation took a lot of time and money.

On July 4, Hanoi's lawmakers officially passed a bill that will ban the use of motorbikes in the city starting in 2030. Under the decision, motorbikes will be banned from Hanoi's downtown districts and limited in areas with inadequate public transport and poor infrastructure.

There are around 7.5 million motorbikes in HCMC, Vietnam's most densely populated city with a population of 12 million people.

According to VnExpress, an April study by the Hanoi-based Green Innovation and Development Center found that ambient air pollution in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City exceeded the WHO's standards on 78 days from January to March, although the air quality in Ho Chi Minh City was better among the two cities.

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