Education, Environment

Let’s Take Action! Breathe Mongolia’s Air Pollution Reduction Project now Underway

12 · Oct · 2022

Written by Amarjargal Dagvadorj and Ana Maria Carmen Ilie

September 27, 2022, Ulaanbaatar — Breathe Mongolia – Clean Air Coalition has started the implementation of the Let’s Take Action! project with the support of AstraZeneca. This project aims to reduce the number of smoke-emitting chimneys in Ulaanbaatar and increase citizen engagement in accessing, collecting, and communicating air quality data, thus providing tools to take action against air quality issues.

The Let’s Take Action! project will focus on implementing the following activities:

  • Create partnerships among local government, academic institutions, and community groups centered on air quality assessments
  • Increase community awareness of local air quality, its determinants, and air pollution-related health risks
  • Create a pilot community-based air quality monitoring network, where community members and project partners design and implement a stationary network to collect and share local air quality data using IQ AirVisual/Purple Air/Carbon monoxide monitors
  • Create a richer picture of neighborhood-level variation in air quality (PM2.5 and CO) and provide communities with a better understanding of the air quality in their neighborhood
  • Hold monthly workshops for the public on data analysis, air pollution assessment, and air pollution reduction strategies
  • Implement air pollution control technologies for families living in ger districts by replacing stoves with Cooking, Heating and Insulation Products (CHIP)
  • Share data collected with the community, engaging academic partners, stakeholders, and local government to develop a set of policies to reduce pollution and protect population health  

The current project focuses on particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide (CO) exposure because of recent exposure and mortality in Ulaanbaatar related to accidental CO poisoning. This is in addition to increasing numbers of associated emergency calls. For example, in the winter of 2019-20, a total of 2,756 people were poisoned, and 15 people died. Even breathing in small amounts of CO daily negatively affects the human brain. This is because CO has a 200 times higher affinity to red blood cells than oxygen, which means it spreads rapidly throughout the body and affects the brain.

Dr. Amarjargal Dagvadorj presents on the sources of air pollution during the pilot workshop of the Let’s Take Action! project

 The Let’s Take Action! project features technological solutions that will reduce children’s chronic carbon monoxide (CO) exposure, namely through the Cooking, Heating and Insulation Package (CHIP) package. Packages for 25 families in the Ulaanbaatar ger district will be subsidized by Breathe Mongolia, in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund in Mongolia (UNICEF, Mongolia) and People in Need (PIN) NGO. Long-term exposure to particulate matter can result in heart disease, decreased lung function, exacerbation of asthma, and lung cancer, amongst other cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions. Especially fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has been shown to influence the frequency and severity of many respiratory and cardiovascular diseases (Rom and Samet, 2006; Pope et al., 2004; Peters et al., 2001; Norris et al., 1999).

The first pilot workshop for the Let’s Take Action! project was conducted on September 27th, 2022, at the Mongolian University of Life Sciences in Ulaanbaatar. Participants were invited to attend through various channels, including email, messages, flyers, and promotion by Breathe Mongolia’s social media platforms. The audience was composed mainly of young people aged 18 to 25, students of the National University of Mongolia and the Mongolian University of Life Sciences. 

The workshop started with an introduction to the Breathe Mongolia – Clean Air Coalition. The presentation included sections about pollutants, focusing on particulate matter and carbon monoxide: their definitions, characteristics, chemical composition, sources, and their health and environmental effects. Another section presented the latest news on air pollution and what scientists have done to improve the environment. 

The students were engaged throughout the presentation and showed a great interest in sharing their thoughts on air pollution, expressing their opinions, and taking action themselves. They shared their concerns that air pollution affects not only their overall health but also more specific issues, such as the beauty of their skin. They also expressed that crowding in Ulaanbaatar is a key problem related to air pollution. Many students expressed their interest in living outside the city upon graduation to contribute to the development of the Mongolian countryside and encourage people to plant trees and not burn garbage outside. 

This active participation of young people put the beginning of our project off to a great start. Country Project Director Dr. Amarjargal Dagvadorj, Program Manager Oyunchimeg Munkhtamga, and AQI Sensor Manager Oyun-Erdene Nyamsambuu worked together to ensure the success of the event. Enkhuun Byambadorj, Operations Lead at Breathe Mongolia, and Environmental Monitoring Scientist Ana Maria Carmen Ilie contributed greatly to preparing the information presented in the workshop.

Our monthly workshop will feature different topics and scientists and experienced professionals across multiple fields on how to reduce air pollution and push our society in a positive direction. Our workshops will involve representatives from the families participating in the project, as well as other citizens in the community. We will collect detailed information from every step of our project. Meticulous data collection will help clarify how we can expand our activities and raise awareness for people to protect themselves from air pollution. Most importantly, we will guide the families on how to take action in reducing air pollution and actively involve them in anti-air pollution activities to help them make daily decisions to protect their health, such as wearing masks when the AQI is high and continuous outreach to government officials to meet its air quality targets.

We should all Take Action against air pollution. Whether you’re in Mongolia or abroad, air pollution is a problem that affects us all (today, next year, or maybe in ten years). Let’s stop it now while we have the chance. Visit our website to learn more about how to stop air pollution, how to protect yourself, and how you can get involved by volunteering or donating.

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