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Heavy air pollution closes schools in Tehran

Heavy air pollution closes schools in Tehran

Air pollution in the Iranian capital, Tehran, has reached an alarming level

Tehran (IRAN) – Schools across Tehran closed on Sunday and Monday and residents have been warned to stay at home as thick smog of pollution hangs in the air, officials said on Saturday.

Esfandyar Chaharband said the decision has been made due to the severe air pollution and the risks it could have for school students.

Outdated vehicles and inconsistent enforcement of emissions regulations are the main drivers of pollution in Iranian cities, which officials have blamed for thousands of deaths from respiratory illnesses.

Health official said, “The most important sources of air pollutants in Tehran are motorcycles and cars whose catalytic converter has been removed.”

Traffic will be limited in the city centre and some factories will be closed.

Currently, 40 percent of Tehran residents use public transport, while 60 percent use their own cars.

The Air Quality Index on Monday showed an average reading of 162 – a “red status” warning that the air is unhealthy for everyone, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

In 2012, pollution contributed to the premature deaths of 4,500 people in Tehran and about 80,000 in the country, the health ministry said.

In December 2014, almost 400 people were hospitalized with heart and respiratory problems caused by heavy pollution in Tehran, with nearly 1,500 others requiring treatment.

“We cannot breathe. My eyes are itchy and my head hurts,” said a taxi driver Khosro.

Visibility was low on Saturday as a grey fog blanketed the capital, a megacity of an estimated 14mn people, and authorities said they expect pollution to worsen in the coming days.

The warning came as officials in China issued a “red alert” to prepare for smog and a week after almost 200 countries reached a landmark accord to combat climate change.

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