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Ministry monitoring air quality as pollution levels rise

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has been keeping a close eye on the air quality in Vientiane amid the widespread illegal burning of garbage, rice fields and scrubland, which has created a thick haze over the city.
People in many areas of the country are burning rice fields and bush, sending smoke into the air which mingles with vehicle exhaust gases to create a toxic atmosphere.
Director General of the Pollution Control Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Mrs Sisouphanh Luanglath, told Vientiane Times on Thursday the department is monitoring for particulate matter (PM) 2.5 pollution.
Officials are working with the ministry’s Natural Resource and Environment Research Institute to check the proportion of particulates in the air at the Meteorology and Hydrology Department in Vientiane, to see if the level is within the set national standard.
“At present the air quality is normal and the level of pollution meets set safety standards,” she said.
Air quality tests conducted by the Natural Resource and Environment Research Institute showed that on February 12-13 the amount of PM2.5 was 32.1µg/m3 which is less than the set national standard PM2.5 = 50 µg/m3) over 24 hours. 
Last year, wildfires in Laos and neighbouring countries caused dangerous levels of air pollution, especially in Vientiane. Particulate matter (PM) 2.5 pollution occurred in many parts of the country and pollution in the capital exceeded the safety level.
PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is about 3 percent of the diameter of a human hair. It can lodge in the lungs and enter blood vessels, leading to respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
Last year, a mobile air quality monitoring truck was stationed in Chao Anouvong Park.
The government’s policy is to maintain air quality at safe levels so it assigned the Natural Resource and Environment Research Institute to monitor the amount of particulates and consider measures to keep the air clean.
The quality of air in Laos compared to some cities in Asia is generally good, according to officials in charge, who attribute this to the fact that Laos has fewer vehicles and far less heavy industry compared to other Asian cities.

By Phomphong Laoin
(Latest Update February 14, 2020)


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