Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, topped a list of the world’s most polluted cities on Monday.

Cause of pollution: Hanoi is enveloped in thick smog caused by high levels of particulates attributed to widespread construction, vehicle emissions, carbon emissions from coal plants and agricultural burning, contributing to its position on Swiss air quality firm IQ-Air’s list. Hanoi’s 8 million registered vehicles contribute to 30% of air particulate pollution, while industrial emissions account for another 30%, according to a 2021 World Bank report.

Negative effects: The city’s severe levels of PM2.5 pollutants were classified as “very unhealthy,” exceeding the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) annual guideline by over 24 times. The WHO highlights that exposure to air pollution or PM2.5 pollutants is associated with severe health conditions, including strokes, heart disease and lung cancer.

Safety measures: Due to the serious health risks, healthcare authorities had advised residents of the need to wear masks and limit outdoor activities. A recent World Bank report indicates that 40% of Hanoi’s population is exposed to air pollution concentrations nearly five times higher than the WHO guidelines.

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“This is damaging for our health,” Duong Kim Oanh, a 58-year-old Hanoi resident, told Reuters. “I think Hanoi’s pollution is caused by a large number of personal vehicles and the fine dust from all the construction, plus this cold weather.”

Hanoi airport delays: Last month, nearly 100 flights to and from Hanoi’s international airport faced delays or were redirected to alternative cities due to dense fog blanketing the city, resulting in a surge in air pollution and a significant reduction in visibility.

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