A new report from IQAir, a company that tracks air pollution worldwide, says only a handful of regional cities in Southeast Asia recorded air quality levels that meet international health standards in 2022.
Data from its most recent report published earlier in the week show only 2.7 per cent or eight of 296 cities in the region met the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guideline for PM2.5 which are tiny particles that can cause serious health problems and is one of the deadliest forms of air pollution with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres that makes it easy to penetrate deep inside the lungs, where they either remain for long periods or pass into the bloodstream unfiltered.
Prolonged exposure to harmful air pollution have been reported to weaken resistance to respiratory diseases and can heighten the risks of lung cancer and heart disease.
Although it can be caused by multiple sources, the leading polluters in Southeast Asia were industry emissions, power generation, vehicle emissions as well as open burning, IQAir said in its report.
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Indonesia tops regional pollution levels, with six of its cities in the top 15 for highest PM2.5 concentrations, including the top-ranked Pasarkemis in Java’s Banten province, and major metropolises Jakarta and Surabaya placing fourth and seventh on the most polluted regional list.
Vietnam’s Hanoi ranked second while Laos’ capital Vientiane was the 14th most polluted city last year.
However, air quality saw an overall improvement throughout Southeast Asia last year, with seven of nine countries in the region recording a decrease in PM2.5 concentrations across the year. Only Vietnam and Laos saw air pollution levels worsen.
Three Indonesian cities also placed in the “healthy” range of 0-5 micrograms per cubic metre – the measurement of concentration of air pollutants. Those were Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara province, Pangkal Pinang in the Bangka Belitung Islands Province and Mamuju in West Sulawesi.
The region’s best air quality was in Nam Sach, a rural district in the Red River Delta region of Vietnam, according to the survey by IQAir.
Story was adapted from CNA.