The Reality About Air Quality in Hanoi

According to historical data, every one in four days, the air quality in the capital is either unhealthy or hazardous.


On the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 5, the air quality in the capital rose to above 250 on the Air Quality Index (AQI). For a few hours it was the worst on the planet, exceeding that even of Beijing and Shanghai, two cities known for their bad air.


Based on readings taken at the US Embassy in Lang Ha and the United Nations International School (UNIS) in Ciputra (see, the air quality was bad throughout the whole city.


The response from the general public online was huge. Just 48 hours after over 70 tonnes of dead fish was found floating in West Lake, Hanoi was facing another affliction, the declining quality of its air. People were worried.


Historical Data

The reality does not make for good reading. Based on historical air quality readings published on the French-run website,, seven days a year (2% of the time) the air in the capital is ‘hazardous’. In such situations, everyone should avoid outdoor activity and even indoors, should keep activity levels low.


A further 36.5 days a year are deemed to be ‘very unhealthy’, while for 40 days a year the air is considered to be ‘unhealthy’. Added together, for 83.5 days per year or 23% of the time, the air quality in Hanoi is terrible.


If you want to take a positive spin, then 45% of the time the AQI falls below 50 and the air quality is good all-round. Yet it also means that for over six months a year, Hanoians have to suffer bad or unhealthy air.


The Cause

Most air pollution is the result of burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas, and gasoline to produce electricity and power our vehicles. Contributors to bad quality air include emissions from factories operating in the vicinity of the capital, farmers burning crops, and exhaust emissions from motorbikes and cars.


As Vietnam gets richer, and more vehicles take to the road, then the emissions will continue to increase and the air quality will get worse. Likewise, greater industrialisation means more factories, which means more emissions.


There are solutions out there — reducing fuel and factory emissions is one. But any regulations that are already in place or are put in place in the future need to be enforced.



In December 1952, The Great Smog shrouded London for four days with black-coloured air, causing the death of an estimated 12,000 people. This led to the City of London introducing the Clean Air Act (first in 1956 and then later in 1968) which banned the burning of coal. To this day, fuel emissions and pollution levels in the UK capital are a constant concern.


While the declining air quality in Hanoi is unlikely to produce such devastating results, something needs to be done. The question is what and by who.

Last modified onFriday, 07 October 2016 08:21
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1 comment

  • Tim7385828
    Tim7385828 Saturday, 08 October 2016 07:35 Comment Link

    The Lang Ha readings are taken at a pretty atrocious intersection that is always jammed up. I think the readings there are worse than the true average of the city. The localized smog generated from a couple hundred motorbikes idling all the time at that insersection certainly skew the numbers. I'm not sure about the Ciputra area though.

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