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|Citizens across Southeast Asia are hoping for improved environmental protective actions (Photo: Shutterstock)|
Tamas Nguyen, a Hungarian living in Hanoi, was showing off his new micro-filter dust mask to his colleagues and advised them to buy similar ones to protect themselves from the serious air pollution in Hanoi.
“My family has been having health issues because of the rampant air pollution and we had to move a few times. After the factory fire at Hadong district, pretty close to our new house, my wife became even more concerned about the air quality, constantly telling me about how it is always red and purple on the warnings. She went out of her way to order dust masks from abroad worth around VND800,000 ($35) each that can filter out microscopic particles. It was a pretty expensive buy, but I really could tell the difference in traffic.”
Nguyen also has others to worry about. “We have a six-month baby so we also decided to buy an air purifier to let her breathe some fresh air, at least while she’s at home,” he added.
Region feeling the pressure
The Thai Pollution Control Department under the Thai Ministry of Natural Resources on September 30 issued a warning about the growing pollution in Bangkok and nearby areas. The concentration of smoke and microparticles in the area has been exceeding the accepted level of 50 microgramme per cubic metre, posing a direct threat to human health.
On the same morning, Bangkok was submerged in a thick layer of smog and dust, according to local news outlets. Residents woke up to a cloud of fine dust hanging over the main business and shopping districts.
Thailand is not the only country suffering from microparticles in the air. The issue is there for the entire region, partly generated by the illegal burning of forests in Indonesia’ Sumatra and Borneo islands. According to the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre headquartered in Singapore, the number of fire hazard points in the area rose sharply from 861 to 1,619 within one day, September 12.
The fires from burning forests forced Indonesia to close nearly 4,000 schools and sent hundreds of thousands of people to hospital with symptoms of respiratory disease. In addition, Malaysia also closed more than 400 schools and distributed about 500,000 dust masks to citizens for free.
According to Air Visual Earth, the air quality index measured in many spots in Malaysia, Indonesia, and some cities of Thailand are in the 110-160 (unhealthy) range, while the majority of Vietnam is in the 51-100 band, except for the northern areas where the air quality index exceeds 130. Blame has been partly attributed to the burning of straw in countryside areas as summer turns to autumn. Thus, compared to regional countries, Vietnam is less affected, but the situation remains dire.
IQAir AirVisual, a Swiss-based air quality monitoring facility that generates data from public, ground-based, and real-time monitoring stations, recorded Hanoi’s AQI level at 152 on Wednesday morning last week, making it the seventh-most polluted city in the world. It used data from three monitoring stations in the city.
Earlier this year, it ranked Hanoi, which has eight million people and more than five million motorbikes and 550,000 cars, the second-most polluted city in Southeast Asia.
Returning to Hanoi after a several-week business trip to Thailand, Nguyen Xuan Dong, deputy general director of Ecomobi told VIR that he felt like he was suffocating while working in Bangkok.
“While it is polluted, the air in Hanoi is still cleaner and the city is not overrun by smog every morning like Bangkok.”
Solutions to live by
Although the air pollution in such a big city as Hanoi is not as serious as other neighbouring countries, people are receiveing daily warnings that their health is in danger. Now, the situation is opening opportunities for home appliance manufacturers, almost all of which are foreign-invested, to increase the sales of air and water purifiers.
Visiting a large electronics supermarket in Hanoi, a VIR reporter found that the most popular air purifiers are from Sharp, Electrolux, Panasonic, and Coway, priced VND4-10 million ($175-430). There is great variety depending on the area of the house it is to be used and additional functions including humidifying, trapping mosquitoes, and timers to avoid dry skin.
Vu Duc Thang, marketing director of the Pico electronics supermarket chain, said, “The top seller at Pico is the Coway brand from South Korea. They make up 60 per cent of the sale revenue in the air purifiers segment, followed by Sharp, Electrolux, and Hitachi. These products are priced at around VND7-9 million ($300-390).”
Meanwhile, at the dienmayxanh.com chain, the favourite products are Sharp and Daikin, with an average price of VND4-6 million ($175-260).
Along with air purifiers, other products such as water purifiers and masks are also in high demand.
Many people have sought to buy masks capable of filtering out microparticles. Such masks go from VND40,000 to VND800,000 ($1.70-35). Demonstrating the demand, a few online vendors on the Shopee platform reported sales of 3,000-5,000 dust masks a day.
However, while the quality of most products on the market remains questionable, big home appliance brands like Panasonic were quick to come out with high-quality products to protect people from air pollution.
Most recently, Panasonic launched a demonstration zone showcasing their comprehensive air solution, Quality Air for Life, at Panasonic Risupia Vietnam, a business-to-business solution for entire buildings.
It is a combination between advanced construction methods and synchronous technological and technical solution systems which helps to improve air quality indoors for healthier and better living.
The Quality Air for Life demonstration zone at Panasonic Risupia will serve as an area for businesses and customers to experience Panasonic’s latest solutions and technologies for optimal air quality control through temperature and humidity control, air circulation, and air purification designed for a variety of buildings such as boutique hotels, small offices/home offices, condominiums, and other living spaces.
“Through this new demonstration area, Panasonic provides businesses and customers in Vietnam with advanced technologies which are easily accessible that help to improve people’s lives such as providing comfortable, reliable, and safe air to the country of Vietnam and its people,” said Kazuhiro Matsushita, general director of Panasonic Vietnam.
However, there is an abundance of low-quality products in the market and buyers are warned to choose their brands and vendors carefully to get the quality they desire.