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A man wears a mask as smoke is released from a factory chimney behind him yesterday in Phnom Penh. The Ministry of Environment will begin keeping tabs the city’s air quality with a PM2.5 monitor. Hong Menea

Monitor to help analyse pollution

An air quality monitoring system may finally be materialising in the Kingdom’s capital, following a donation of a monitor to the Ministry of Environment last week.

Minister of Environment Say Sam Al yesterday confirmed that the ministry has received the monitor, which detects harmful airborne particles called PM2.5, from the Japan-based Asia Center for Air Pollution Research.

According to Heng Nareth, director-general of environmental protection at the ministry, the monitoring is a first for the government. “From now on, we can get real-time data [on air quality], and we can evaluate the situation in Phnom Penh,” he said.

Nareth added that the monitor, installed at the top of the ministry’s building, is already recording data.“Data has already been recorded [but] we have not yet connected [the monitor] to the server,” he said, adding that the information collected will eventually be made available online.

When asked about the country’s air pollution status, Nareth conceded that the lack of monitoring in the past had constrained their ability to study it.

In fact, Cambodia has not been included in the World Health Organization’s Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database, which provides data on air pollution levels in 3,000 cities in 103 countries.

James Rarick, team leader for the noncommunicable diseases unit at WHO Cambodia, said in an email yesterday that this is due to insufficient data.

“The addition of the new PM2.5 monitor will be important to improve the city’s capacity to measure ambient air pollution levels and should help to have data for Phnom Penh included in the future,” he wrote.

Rarick added that according to the organisation’s estimates, more than four in five people in urban areas where air pollution is monitored are exposed to air pollutant levels exceeding WHO’s limits.

“While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted,” he said, adding that 98 percent of cities in low- and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants fail to meet WHO air-quality guidelines.

“As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases,” he said.

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