Smog over Ulaanbaatar. Photo: cc BY-NC

Mongolian air pollution causing health crisis

Smog in Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar is causing a public health crisis, especially among children, according to a new study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Mongolia’s National Center for Public Health.
Pollution levels in Ulaanbaatar had become worse than that in cities such as Beijing and New Delhi. Concentrations of breathable airborne particles known as PM2.5 were as high as 3,320 micrograms per cubic metre at one monitoring station on 30 January, they said.

The government has offered subsidies for more efficient wood- and coal-burning stoves and it is also providing free electricity at night in some districts. But smog levels spike in the bitterly cold winters, especially in poor “ger” neighbourhoods, named after the felt tents in which many migrants live. Many ger households burn coal or even trash to keep warm and the smog they produce has led to a surge in respiratory and heart disease, and stoked anger and protests.

“Air pollution has become a child health crisis in Ulaanbaatar, putting every child and pregnancy at risk. The risks include stillbirth, preterm birth, lower birth weight, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, inhibited brain development and death,” UNICEF Mongolia Representative Alex Heikens said.

Source: Reuters, 23 February 2018


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