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People Breathe Easier After Rain In Vientiane

Source: Vientiane Times

Air pollution levels of particulate matter that are 2.5 micrometres and less in diameter (PM2.5) have returned to safe levels after a few days of rainfall.

According to a weather test by the Natural Resource and Environment Research Institute at the Meteorology and Hydrology Department in Vientiane, the level of air pollution at 7:00am on March 20 reached 63.5 micrograms per cubic metre.  The safe level has been set at 50 micrograms per cubic metre.

Director General of the Pollution Control Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Mrs Sisouphanh Luanglath, told Vientiane Times yesterday that “air pollution is at safe levels now mainly due to the rain that we have had. It starts getting dangerous when particle levels reach about 200 micrograms/m3,” she said.

According to the Institute at the Meteorology and Hydrology Department in Vientiane, air pollution began exceeding the safety level of 50 micrograms per cubic metre on March 11.  March 13 and March 14 saw levels remain high at 172.1 micrograms and 140.6 micrograms per metre cubed. 

According to the ministry, the fine particles of pollution are about 1/25 the diameter of a human hair or the width of ½ an arterial blood cell.  These particles can lodge in the lungs and enter blood vessels which may lead to respiratory problems, cancer or cardiovascular disease in long term exposures.

The haze in Vientiane has partly been caused by a forest fire that started a few days ago in Sangthong district.  Pollution is also coming from fires in neighbouring countries, and backyard burning of rubbish contributes too. 

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment issued an edict recently that forbids the burning of garbage and green waste in a bid to reduce the current high levels of air pollution.

Everyone is advised to monitor the official air pollution announcements that are issued by authorities and should avoid getting information from disreputable sources, the department said.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has been keeping a close eye on air quality after high pollution levels were reported across the region.

The ministry has stationed air quality monitoring equipment in Vientiane to test whether the proportion of particulates in the air is sitting below the national standards.

The ministry’s decision to test air quality in Vientiane came after some Asian cities experienced rising levels of particulates.