Making news

Symposium alerts air pollution’s impact on public health

A symposium in Hanoi on August 20 discussed air pollution in Vietnam and its considerable impact on public health.

The event was held by the Vietnam Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Prevention Alliance and the institute for preventive medicine and public health training of the Hanoi Medical University.

Reports at the workshop noted that among many forms of electricity production, coal-fired power plants are the main source of smoke and coal ash containing toxic substances, especially particles smaller than 10 micrometres (PM10) and 2.5 micrometres (PM 2.5) and toxic gases like CO, SO2, O3, NO and sulphur.

PM2.5 and smaller particles of dust are the main risk factor for respiratory, mucous membrane and digestive diseases, including bronchitis, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and myocardial infarction.

Do Manh Cuong, an official of the Health Environment Management Agency of the Ministry of Health, said air pollution is greatly affecting Vietnamese people’s health. It may cause poisoning, lower respiratory tract infections, lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and COPD while raising the risk of premature birth.

World Health Organisation data in 2015 showed that among the 10 diseases with the highest fatality rate in Vietnam, six were linked with air pollution, namely strokes, myocardial infarction, COPD, lung – tracheal cancers, lower respiratory tract infections and tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, respiratory diseases were contracted with higher incidence than pregnancy, delivery and postpartum-related diseases; circulatory system diseases; digestive system diseases; and bacterial infection and parasitic contamination, according to the 2014 Health Statistics Yearbook.

Those most vulnerable to air pollution are the elderly, pregnant women, children, persons with lung and cardiovascular diseases, workers at craft villages and production facilities and outdoors workers.

Cuong noted that the incidence of respiratory diseases in cities with air pollution is much higher than other cities.

At the symposium, participants looked into the impact of environmental pollution, especially coal-fired power plants, on public health, the rising burden of NCDs in Vietnam, benefits from renewable energy and solutions to replace coal fired power generation and ways to ease of the burden of NCDs caused by air pollution.

They said the health sector need to conduct studies to assess air pollution’s impact on public health, review regulations on air pollution and make policies protecting public health against air pollution.