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Air Pollution Causes Upsurge in Emergency Calls

Increase in the air pollutants last week caused by temperature inversion pushed the air quality index (AQI) above 140 (dangerous for all groups).Increase in the air pollutants last week caused by temperature inversion pushed the air quality index (AQI) above 140 (dangerous for all groups).

The number of calls made to Tehran emergency services over the past week increased by 12% as high levels of pollution enveloped the sprawling capital for over a week.

“Most of those who sought emergency aid were in need of oxygen,”  Esmael Farahani, deputy head of Tehran Emergency Center, told Mizanonline.

Increase in the air pollutants last week caused by temperature inversion pushed the air quality index (AQI) above 140 (dangerous for all groups) going as high as 160 in some districts. Tehran’s air quality recorded an AQI of 152 for three consecutive days — more than three times the acceptable threshold of 50, based on World Health Organization standards.

Falling within the “red status,” an AQI that high means the level of toxic pollutants in the air poses health risks to each and every person, and not just those deemed vulnerable. Schools remained mostly closed last week.

Emergency teams in ambulances have been stationed at six major intersections across the suffocating city for over a week now. Additionally, 30 emergency motorbike services are also on standby.

“If the conditions of the people affected are severe, they will be taken to the nearest hospital,” Farahani said. The number of telephone operators at all state hospitals were also increased to accommodate the burgeoning emergency help seekers.

Every year with the drop in temperature in winter, a phenomenon known as temperature inversion occurs when cold air underpins warm air at higher altitudes, leading to the entrapment of air pollutants which causes heavy smog.

The capital city’s air quality has not seen any improvement despite the launch of the Low Emission Zone scheme proposed by the Tehran Municipality. The scheme was meant to enforce stringent rules on polluting vehicles, but the authorities decided to be lenient in its initial implementation “due to certain social considerations.”

But Vahid Hosseini, director of Tehran’s Air Quality Control Company, says the scheme is not expected to deliver quick results even after stringent enforcement.

  More Deaths

Earlier in November, when air pollution lingered in Tehran for over two weeks, Habib Kashani, a member of Tehran City Council, said that pollution in Tehran had caused the deaths of 412 people within 23 days.

Reports say the number of people dying from heart attacks or strokes increased by over 400 in the three weeks compared to the previous years and deaths were associated with the increasing air pollution in the metropolis. The beleaguered Department of Environment has declared that Iran’s struggle with air pollution costs around $30 billion a year, nearly double the $16 billion reported by WHO in 2014.

The international health watchdog has recently released a report which showed that Tehran isn’t the only city in the country suffering from the problem of air pollution. The report highlighted the Iranian city of Zabol, on the eastern border with Afghanistan, as the world’s most polluted city.  With 26,000 annual deaths (5,000 in Tehran) due to air pollution, the country ranks 16th in terms of air pollution-related deaths.

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