Offices and some schools have been closed in Khuzestan, Yazd and 16 cities in Isfahan province due to ongoing severe air pollution and dust storms in the west.
The official IRNA News Agency announced on Tuesday that in some parts of Khuzestan the concentration of dust particles in the air had breached the safe limit, 140 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter), reaching more than 800 μg/m3 in Ahvaz.
Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences, which runs the Ministry of Health’s hospitals in the provincial capital, reported that more than 500 people had recently been admitted due to breathing problems, of whom 62 required specialist care.
An emergency working group in Yazd province also described the situation there as “polluted and very dangerous”. Despite the potential health risks and unfavorable conditions, end-of-term exams due to run this week are still going ahead in most education centers.
On Monday a number of sites in Tehran and Alborz provinces were also closed due to the choked air. Abid Maleki, Tehran Governorate’s deputy coordinator of provincial affairs, announced that due to “the intensification and spread of dust”, all offices, kindergartens and schools – save for two in the cities of Firuzkuh and Damavand – would be temporarily closed. Banks and the stock exchange remained open as normal.
Solmaz Ahadi, an expert within the monitoring unit at Tehran Air Quality Control Company, told ISNA that on Sunday night the level of pollutants was “very unhealthy”. The Air Quality Index (AQI) number stood at 172 in Tehran; anything above 100 is a cause for concern, especially for vulnerable groups.
In Alborz, all offices, banks, education and research centers were closed on Monday. Authorities said high winds were contributing to the spread of dust.
There are several causes to the now-annual problem of high air pollution levels across Iran. One is the drying-up of riverbeds, lakes and fertile plains across large swathes of the country, with the newly-created dust travelling faster due to the concurrent loss of vegetation.