Pollution prompts public holiday

Pollution in the Iranian capital Tehran has become so bad the Government announced a two-day holiday in an attempt to reduce traffic on the city's streets.

All schools and kindergartens were closed on Tuesday and Wednesday this week to protect the health of children and official TV broadcasts urged people not to drive to work and to use public transport as air pollution had reached dangerous levels.

The pollution problem stems from its private car fleet, with most vehicles in the city over 20 years old and catalytic converters as rare as hen’s teeth.

Smog reached crisis levels at the beginning of the month and has become so bad the sun is barely visible in the mornings.

The pollution is the usual cocktail of traffic emissions – carbon monoxide, particulate matter, sulphides and other pollutants – and has increased dramatically in recent days due to unfavourable weather conditions.

The current crisis brings is the latest in what seems to be a growing trend of sever smog incidents that bring cities grinding to a halt.

In South East Asia, for example, the summer smog got so bad the Malaysian government was forced to declare a state of emergency (see related story).

Many asthma suffers and those with heart, lung and respiratory problems in Tehran have been admitted to hospital while even the normally healthy are suffer itching eyes and burning throats.

The situation raises a question about the developed world’s much-vaunted success in tackling air quality since reaching its own crisis point in the 1970s.

There are now fears that improvements made globally in recent decades could be undermined as developing economies become more mobile and burn more fossil fuels in industry.

By Sam Bond

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