Smog Envelopes Tehran, Again

Smog Envelopes Tehran, Again Smog Envelopes Tehran, Again

The Department of Environment announced short-term solutions to help curb the dangerously high levels of toxic pollutants in the Iranian capital following an emergency meeting on Saturday morning.

Law stipulates the DOE emergency committee to combat air pollution must convene only when pollution registers an AQI (air quality index) of 200 or hovers above 150 —resulting in the issuance of a red alert — for at least 48 hours.

Muhammad Hadi Heydarzadeh, Tehran’s DOE chief told IRNA that the committee issued a directive “shutting down all mining activities, as well as cement factories and asphalt plants in and around Tehran until the end of the week (Friday).”

Furthermore, construction projects around Tehran, Rey and the Shemiranat have been halted for a week in the hope of improving the air quality that sharply deteriorated over the past week and is reportedly expected to worsen in the coming days.

The committee also proposed shutting down schools for at least two days starting Sunday. The measure was approved by the Ministry of Education.

“We’ve also issued a week-long ban on the sales of daily traffic zone permits, and instructed the traffic police to enforce the law and fine vehicles without the mandatory technical inspection sticker,” the official said.

Tehran’s Emergency Medical Services are on standby.

For the first time since the beginning of the Iranian year (March 21), Tehran’s air pollution hit its worst level last Monday, registering an AQI of 162; within a “red status” which means the level of toxic pollutants in the air posed health risks to each and every person and not just those deemed sensitive, according to World Health Organization standards.

On Saturday morning, Tehran’s AQI was 141, meaning it was unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children, the elderly, and those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.

Including Saturday, Tehran residents experienced 11 consecutive days of toxic smog.

  Emission Standards Ignored

The alarmingly large number of old, poorly-maintained vehicles that roam the streets of Tehran are major contributors to the unending air pollution woes.

According to Col. Morad Moradi, deputy for education at the Tehran Traffic Police, locally-manufactured cars that violate emission standards are largely responsible for the metropolis’ predicament that has gotten worse on a regular basis as hundreds of new private vehicles enter the congested streets every day most of which are gas-guzzlers with engines that would fail tests in most environmentally-friendly countries with stringent vehicle regulations.

“More than 1.5 million tons of toxic pollutants are emitted into the air in Tehran every year,” he said in a statement published on Khabar Online news website.

Citing a 2014 study, Moradi said 60% of vehicles tested in Tehran fail Euro 2 standard tests.

Designation of low emission zones is an effective measure that helps alleviate traffic congestion and reduce air pollution, but the implementation of the scheme has hit a roadblock because the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) is simply “not interested in the scheme,” according to the CEO of the Tehran Air Quality Control Company Vahid Hosseini.

The government has been selling Euro 4 gasoline in eight metropolises, including Tehran, to help reduce pollution. However, tests on the gasoline distributed in Tehran during the March 21-September 22 period showed the amount of sulfur in the fuel to be twice the acceptable limit of 50 ppm.

An estimated 80,000 people die prematurely every year in Iran, accounting for 21% of all deaths, according to a WHO report. Official statistics indicate that more than 4,400 people die annually in Tehran alone, meaning one person dies every two hours in the Iranian capital due to dangerously high pollution levels.

Every year during cold months, Tehran suffers a phenomenon known as temperature inversion; a condition in which the temperature of the atmosphere increases with altitude in contrast to the normal decrease in altitude. When temperature inversion occurs, cold air underlies warmer air at higher altitudes.

Smog is impacted by the inversion layer because it is in essence, capped, when the warm air mass moves over an area. This happens because the warmer air layer sits over Tehran and prevents the normal mixing of cooler, denser air. The air instead becomes still and over time the lack of mixing causes pollutants to become trapped under the inversion, developing significant amounts of smog.