Unclean air: Study finds pollution at dangerous level in HCMC's new urban areas

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Most bike riders in Ho Chi Minh City wear face masks to protect themselves from dust. Photo: Diep Duc Minh Most bike riders in Ho Chi Minh City wear face masks to protect themselves from dust. Photo: Diep Duc Minh
The levels of dust in many places are twice the acceptable limit

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A new study from Ho Chi Minh City's environment department has found an increase in dust and toxic gas in many urban areas, warning that motorbike riders can be exposed to major health risks. 
According to local media, the environment observation and analysis center measured the dust and carbon monoxide (CO) concentration and noise across the city. Although the situation looks brighter in the downtown, it has worsened in new urban areas in Districts 7 and Go Vap.
The intersection of Dinh Tien Hoang and Dien Bien Phu, one of the busiest traffic spot in District 1, saw drops in all three categories, based on the average figures of last year and the first half of this year.
Its dust concentration fell 24 percent to 350 micrograms per cubic meter, its CO concentration from 9.93 to 9.24 milligrams per cubic meter and its noise from 77.5 to 77.2 decibels.
The permissible CO limit is 30 micrograms per cubic meter, with high levels from 55 micrograms able to cause nausea, heart failure, unconsciousness and even death.
Vietnam sets the dust safety limit at 300 micrograms per cubic meter and the noise limit is 70 decibels.
Hang Xanh Intersection also saw drops in dust and noise, but saw a slight increase of CO concentration from 5.6 to 6.0 milligrams per cubic meter.
Go Vap, the city’s northwestern district which has seen a very fast rate of urbanization, recorded the highest CO concentration of almost 16 milligrams per cubic meter, a 44 percent increase from last year's average.
The district saw significant increases of dust concentration from 446.75 to 496 micrograms per cubic meter, and noise from 71 to 78 decibels.
In District 7, measurements at Huynh Tan Phat and Nguyen Van Linh Intersection showed a 26 percent jump in dust concentration to 614 micrograms per cubic meter, CO from 5.88 to 6.13 milligrams per cubic meter, and noise from 71 to 76.4 decibels.
Dr. Le Van Khoa, an environment lecturer at the Vietnam National University, said that the figures should be an alarm.
He said air pollution is particularly problematic for Vietnam because most people ride motorbikes and are thus directly exposed to the dust and toxic gas every day.
“Constant exposure to such dusty air will surely affect one’s health, especially with skin and respiratory conditions,” Khoa said, as cited by Tuoi Tre.
Most bike riders in the city now wear face masks.
Khoa said the city should limit individual vehicles, encourage public transport and switch to cleaner energy such as natural gas and solar power for industrial activities.

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