In a damning indictment, a new report ranks Vietnam 4th in the number of pollution-linked deaths in the Western Pacific region.
An estimated 71,365 Vietnamese people lost their lives to pollution in 2017, the latest year for which data was available, according to the Pollution and Health Metrics report by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.
It is the first international alliance of its kind to respond to the threat of toxic pollution on a worldwide scale.
Drawing its data from the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation, a Seattle-based institution founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the report breaks risk factors into four categories: air, water, occupational and lead.
Of the total number of pollution-related deaths, air pollution killed 50,232 people in Vietnam, water pollution claimed 3,097 lives, 9,809 died of occupational pollution and 8,227 people were killed by lead pollution, the report said.
In the Western Pacific region, China topped the list of total pollution deaths with 1.8 million, followed by the Philippines (86,650) and Japan (82,046).
Vietnam also entered the list of 20 countries with the highest rate of pollution-related deaths in the Western Pacific region per 100,000 people, in 10th position with 75 deaths, according to the report.
“Pollution is a leading cause of premature death in many smaller low and middle-income countries where the death rates per 100,000 people are much higher than those in more populous, high-income nations,” the report said.
India led the world in the number of pollution deaths, with about 2.3 million, followed by China, Nigeria, Indonesia and Pakistan.
“The report reminds us all that pollution is a global crisis,” said Rachael Kupka, acting Executive Director of GAHP. “It does not matter where you live. Pollution will find you.”
Toxic air, water, land and workplaces killed at least 8.3 million people around the world in 2017, accounting for 15 percent of all premature deaths.
Worsening air pollution in Hanoi and HCMC, Vietnam’s two biggest metropolises, have become a top concern in the country of 94 million people and the poor air quality has made headlines repeatedly.
Data from the World Health Organization showed that air pollution killed 60,000 people in the country in 2016.
Hanoi last week saw its Air Quality Index (AQI) soar to “very unhealthy” levels above 200, then to highly hazardous levels above 300, according to the city’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
This enjoined individuals, especially children and seniors with heart or lung problems, should stay indoors.
From December 7-12, average PM2.5 levels across the capital have been measured at up to three times the safety limit, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. PM2.5 are superfine particles 3 percent the diameter of a human hair.
Officials have said the low quality of air in Hanoi and HCMC is caused by construction, a growing number of cars and motorcycles and heavy industry, including steel works, cement factories and coal-fired plants.
In the latest move from the government, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha has called for urgent measures to reduce air pollution, from improving monitoring system to ending people’s use of coal stoves.