Capital’s Air Quality Readings Improve As Smoke Clears

Source: Vientiane Time

Air quality tests in Vientiane are returning safer readings as recorded levels of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 pollution begin to reduce toward acceptable standards in the capital, environment experts reported on April 3.

Meanwhile, areas of Luang Prabang province remain on alert as PM2.5 pollution continues to exceed safe levels outlined in environmental standards.

The burning of stalks in rice fields and the clearing of bushland is believed to be the primary cause of the smoky haze over the city. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s Natural Resource and Environment Research Institute reported on air quality tests on April 3.

PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is about 3 percent of the width of a human hair. 
In Luang Prabang, air quality tests conducted by the institute showed PM2.5 at 190.2µg/m3, which exceeded the set national standard PM2.5 = 50 µg/m3) over 24 hours. 

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Air quality was average, and the levels of particulate pollution met the set safety standards in Vientiane on April 3, according to a Natural Resource and Environment Research Institute official.

In the capital, air quality tests of PM2.5 recorded between 31.9µg/m3 to 43.1µg/m3 across districts, which passed the national standard.

However, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will continue to keep a close eye on the air quality in Vientiane and other provinces amid the widespread illegal burning of garden and household wastes, rice fields and scrubland, which has created a thick haze over the city.

People in many areas of the country are setting fire to clear rice fields and bush, sending the resulting smoke into the air, which also mingles with vehicle exhaust gases and other matter to create a toxic atmosphere.

Officials are working with the Natural Resource and Environment Research Institute to continually check the proportion of particulates in the air at the Meteorology and Hydrology Department in Vientiane with reference to set national standards.

Last year, wildfires in Laos and neighbouring countries caused dangerous levels of air pollution, especially in Vientiane. 

The pollution occurred in many parts of the country and PM2.5 levels in the capital exceeded the safety level.

These can lodge in the lungs and enter blood vessels, leading to higher risks of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

In 2019, an announcement was made on the stationing of a mobile air quality monitoring truck based at the capital’s Chao Anouvong Park.

The government’s policy is to maintain air quality at safe levels, with the Natural Resource and Environment Research Institute assigned to monitor particulates and consider measures to ensure air quality is maximised.

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