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Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups|| 108 US AQI||PM2.5|
|PM2.5|| 38.3 µg/m³|
|PM10|| 126.3 µg/m³|
|O3|| 18.6 µg/m³|
|NO2|| 122.2 µg/m³|
PM2.5 concentration in Vereeniging air is currently 3 times above WHO exposure recommendation
|Monday, Aug 2|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 110 US AQI
|Tuesday, Aug 3|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 136 US AQI
|Wednesday, Aug 4|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 143 US AQI
Unhealthy 155 US AQI
|Friday, Aug 6|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 119 US AQI
|Saturday, Aug 7|
Moderate 82 US AQI
|Sunday, Aug 8|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 111 US AQI
|Monday, Aug 9|
Moderate 92 US AQI
|Tuesday, Aug 10|
Unhealthy 154 US AQI
|Wednesday, Aug 11|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 125 US AQI
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Vereeniging is a city located in the south of Gauteng province, South Africa. It can be found where the Klip River converges with the Vaal River.
During the middle of 2021, Vereeniging was experiencing a period of “Moderate” quality air with a US AQI reading of 53. This United States Air Quality Index number is an internationally used set of metrics supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is used to compare different cities throughout the world using comparable standards. It is calculated by using the levels of the six most commonly found pollutants. If figures are not all available, the figure is calculated using what data is available. In the case of Vereeniging, the only available figure was for PM2.5 which was 13.1 µg/m³. This figure is quoted in micrograms/microns per cubic metre. The figure of 13.1 µg/m³ is slightly higher than the recommended level by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which would be 10 µg/m³.
With a level such as this, even though it is not extremely high, the given advice is to remain indoors as much as possible and close the doors and windows to prevent more polluted air from entering the rooms. Those people who are sensitive to air pollution should take extra care and try not to venture outside unless it is absolutely necessary. If this is unavoidable, then a good quality mask should be worn at all times together with a limitation to the time spent outdoors.
Air quality can be affected by many variables so it can easily change very quickly. Looking back at the figures published by the Swiss air monitoring company IQAir.com for 2020 it can be seen that the worst two months of the year for air quality were June and July when the figures were between 35.5 and 55.4 µg/m³. These figures placed it in the “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” category. For the remaining 10 months of the year, the air quality was classified as being “Moderate” with figures between 12.1 and 35.4 µg/m³.
Records were first kept in 2019 when a level of 30 µg/m³ was recorded. This fell to 26.5 µg/m³ in 2020 which showed a slight improvement. However, this may not be a truly accurate reading because of the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many vehicles were no longer used as the drivers were furloughed and not required to commute to and from work on a daily basis. There were also many factories and other non-essential production units which were temporarily closed in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.
Due to the heavy industries in and around the Vaal Triangle, it became infamous for its air pollution and respiratory disease. It is known locally as the Dirty Triangle.
The Vaal Triangle consists of the towns of Meyerton, Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark. There are many large industrial operations in this area on which the area depends for its financial survival. There are also coal mines in the area that supply the necessary coal to the industries and the diamond mines nearby.
Glubay Coal (PTY) LTD is a company planning a new open pit coal mine between Vereeniging and Meyerton. The plan is to mine the coal over a period of the next 31 years and then prepare the coal for the export market through a washing plant on site. The location of the mine also gives cause for concern. The planned area covers about 2,500 hectares with 1,300 hectares where soil disturbance will occur. The mine borders the northern suburbs of Vereeniging and will result in a loss of agricultural land. The boundary wire of the mine will be stretched within a kilometre of the surrounding neighbourhoods, as well as some schools.
There are many vehicles in and around this area which are major sources of air pollution as many of them are over 15 years old and therefore lack the modern technology of clean filters etc.
The sources of pollutants range from emissions from nearby power plants, residential fuel burning, motor vehicles to industrial and manufacturing sources. The air quality is managed through the implementation of air quality management plans (AQMP) and other tools such as by-laws that require partnerships with other departments, such as planning and energy and external stakeholders.
The air quality is often very poor in modern, industrialised times. In the polluted air, there are toxins discharged by vehicles, including carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), benzene, lead, heavy metals and some other toxins. Polluted air can cause direct harm to human health. Especially in certain organs such as the blood vessels, bone marrow, spleen, heart and lungs. In particular, the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are the most susceptible to being affected by air pollution.
According to research by the World Medical Organisation (WMO), the human body only has a self-defence mechanism for large dust particles. Particulate matter of sizes larger than 10 microns, however, dust sizes between 0.01 and 5 microns can become trapped in the trachea and alveoli. In which, PM2.5 fine dust is the most dangerous pollutant to human health. This dust has a microscopic size. Therefore, it can easily penetrate deep into the human body through the bloodstream having serious effects on human health.
This is the first and most noticeable effect on people affected by air pollution. Breathing polluted smoke and dust places a heavy burden on the lungs, making them more susceptible to damage. It can also exacerbate symptoms in certain diseases, such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis. One study also concluded that the prevalence of asthma in children living near polluted areas is much higher than in other regions. In addition, many studies have determined that air pollution affects respiration at both acute and chronic levels. In an acute degree, causing symptoms such as coughing and wheezing and in a chronic condition, air pollution can lead to asthma, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Under the impact of polluted air such as factory emissions, the blood vessels will be reduced in size which constricts blood circulation. Air pollution also increases the risk of blood clots in the arteries - the main cause of myocardial infarction or heart attacks.