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|Baruun 4 zam
|French Embassy - Peace Avenue
|Mandakh Naran Tuv
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
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|Air pollution level
|Air quality index
| 70 US AQI
PM2.5 concentration in Ulaanbaatar is currently 3.6 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|Tuesday, Feb 27
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 123 AQI US
|Wednesday, Feb 28
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 108 AQI US
|Thursday, Feb 29
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 126 AQI US
Moderate 70 AQI US
|Saturday, Mar 2
Good 37 AQI US
|Sunday, Mar 3
Good 32 AQI US
|Monday, Mar 4
Good 15 AQI US
|Tuesday, Mar 5
Good 10 AQI US
|Wednesday, Mar 6
Good 6 AQI US
|Thursday, Mar 7
Good 6 AQI US
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Ulaanbaatar is the capital city of Mongolia, as well as being the largest in the country. The name has the meaning of ‘red hero’, and is the cultural, economic and industrial heart of Mongolia. The city has some 1.452 million people living there as of 2017. The country as a whole is subject to some extreme temperature conditions, and as such this has a prominent effect on the pollution levels, with severe periods of cold often leading to people burning large amounts of wood and fossil fuels to stay warm, not just for comfort but as an essential part of life, due to temperatures falling to as low as -40 degrees Celsius and beyond.
In terms of its overall levels of pollution, Ulaanbaatar came in with a PM2.5 average over the year of 2019 with a reading of 62 μg/m³, putting it into the ‘unhealthy’ rating bracket. This requires a PM2.5 reading of 55.5 to 150.4 μg/m³ to be classed as such, and as the name implies this level of air quality is largely very dangerous to breathe, and would present many problems for many people living in Ulaanbaatar, particularly certain groups such as young children or those with preexisting respiratory conditions. These statistics show that Ulaanbaatar is indeed suffering from very bad levels of pollution, with its 2019 average reading of 62 μg/m³ putting it in 48th place out of all cities ranked worldwide.
There would be several main causes of pollution compounding the problem that Ulaanbaatar faces, with some more prominent than others. Before getting to the main one, it is importance to mention pollution coming from vehicles as well as that of factories. Due to less stringent regulations on fuels that can be used, large amounts of diesel still finds its use in the many cars and motorbikes and buses that populate the roads of Ulaanbaatar. Due to the city being a trade hub for both China and Russia, transport and trade in and out of the city would have a prominent effect on the year-round ambient pollution levels.
To mention the main cause of pollution here, it must be established that Ulaanbaatar sees huge amounts of rural to urban migration, with many people moving into the capital and setting up informal settlements known as ‘Gers’, a type of traditional dwelling made out of wood and insulated with felt and other materials. In the center of these dwellings is the fireplace, or stove, the number one offender of air pollution that can see PM2.5 levels rise to as high as 194 μg/m³, as registered in January 2019. These stoves can burn a large variety of materials to generate heat for the dwellings, with materials such as raw coal, wood and even dried dung. The burning of these substances, particularly raw and unwashed coal, has disastrous consequences on the environment and the health of the people living in the capital city.
With a large amount of its pollution stemming from the stoves and fireplaces that are center place in most homes, the result would be pollutants that find their origin in the burning of materials such as coal and wood, which can both release a plethora of harmful chemical compounds as well as fine particulate matter into the air. To name a few of the fine particulate matters, ones such as black carbon and volatile organic compounds would be quite prominent. Black carbon makes up a large amount of the composition of soot, and as such can be found in high amounts in areas that see stove burning fires taking place, as well as being released from vehicles that run on diesel fuel.
Others would include nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO), all of which have disastrous effects on health when inhaled over prolonged periods of time. Due to this raw coal being largely unwashed or unprocessed, the quantities of these pollutants would be far more abundant and thus cause the catastrophic effects to the air quality that is seen in Ulaanbaatar, which large amounts of smoke, haze and smog permeating the atmosphere in the colder months.
Breathing air with PM2.5 levels going as high 194.6 μg/m³, which puts it directly into the ‘very unhealthy’ bracket, would have innumerable consequences, particularly on vulnerable parts of the population, with young children and pregnant mothers being the most at risk. Poor health attributable to breathing this polluted air would include instances of ischemic heart disease (a term used to describe when a particular organ, in this case the heart, is not receiving enough oxygen), increased rates of lung cancer and strokes, as well as the myriad of issues that fall under the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) bracket, which include ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema as well as an overall reduction in full lung capacity.
Fine particulate matter such as black carbon can penetrate deep into the lung tissue, where due to its incredibly small size can actually pass into the blood stream via the lungs. Here it can wreak havoc on almost all parts of the body, causing damage to the blood vessels, the nervous system, hepatic and renal function as well as irreversible changes to the nervous system.
Young children who are particularly at risk may suffer continuous bouts of respiratory infections and irritations, causing them to develop poor lung function that can interfere with natural and healthy growth, leading to a stunting of both physical and mental development. These are but a few of the side effects of breathing such high concentrations of pollution.
Observing the data taken over the last few years, it shows that the pollution levels are hovering around the same dangerous yearly averages, with 2018 leading into 2019 actually showing an increase in PM2.5 levels. In 2017, Ulaanbaatar had a reading of 66.5 μg/m³, slightly worse than more up to date times. This was followed in 2018 by a mildly improved reading of 58.5 μg/m³. Whilst this was nearly low enough for it to move down a notch into the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket, the reading was tarnished again in 2019 by an increase back up to 62 μg/m³. This is indicative that if pollution levels in Ulaanbaatar are to be improved, then a large amount of action must be taken in controlling the amounts of fossil fuels and organic matter being burnt during the winter.
4 Data sources