Iran's Annual Pollution Peril

Cold air and windless days have trapped the fumes from millions of cars and hundreds of old factories in Tehran. The air pollution has reached such high levels that officials are advising residents to remain indoors and to avoid downtown areas.
January 8, 2013, 7am PST | Jessica Hsu
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Government offices, schools, universities and banks were ordered to shut down for five days. Residents who dared to leave their homes felt their eyes and throats sting from the yellowish haze. Such is the effect of the pollution that regularly chokes Tehran at this time of year, reports Thomas Erdbrink. The annual pollution has worsened in recent years, stated a report by Tehran's department of air quality control, and the city experienced fewer than 150 "healthy days" in 2011 compared to 300 in 2009. In the World Health Organization's 2011 report on air quality and health, three of Tehran's provincial towns are ranked in the list of the world's 10 most-polluted cities. "According to the report, Tehran has roughly four times as many polluting particles per cubic meter as Los Angeles."

Due to American sanctions imposed in 2010, Iran began producing its own gasoline to make up for the loss of imports, but this action has taken clearly taken a toll on air quality. The government so far has imposed strict traffic regulations in Tehran, Isfahan and other major cities, such as an odd-even traffic-control plan that regulates the number of cars on streets. However, two newspapers Resalat and Donya-e-Eqtesad called for more official action and pushed for an improvement in gasoline standards.

Several officials, including Ali Mohammad Sha'eri, the deputy director of Iran's Environmental Protection Organization, have denied that the pollution is linked to the locally produced gasoline. "The pollution caused by the use of the emergency fuel concoction has been a taboo subject here, as officials try to portray each measure to counter the economic sanctions as a success that should not be criticized by the local news media," notes Erdbrink.

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Published on Sunday, January 6, 2013 in The New York Times
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