Thursday, May 23, 2013

Air Pollution in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - Emissions, Dispersion, and Health Impacts Modeling (Journal Article)

Article published in the journal of Air Quality, Atmosphere, and Health

Particulate Pollution in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia


The World Health Organization (WHO) listed the air pollution in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) among the top 5 cities with the worst air quality in the world. The air quality in the winter season reaches highs of 750 micro-g/m3 for daily average fine particulates (PM) due to increased coal combustion, lower mixing heights (less than 200m), coupled with city’s geography surrounded by mountains, which further restricts the vertical and horizontal dispersion of the pollutants. The annual average concentrations in 2010-11 ranged 136±114 micro-g/m3 (WHO guideline for fine PM is 10 micro-g/m3).

Single largest source to particulate pollution in Ulaanbaatar is coal and biomass combustion in the households and heat only boilers, followed by power plants. In this paper, we present sector specific emissions for 2010 accounting for 62,000 tons of fine PM; 55,000 tons of sulfur dioxide; and 89,000 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions.

The inventory is spatially disaggregated at 0.01° resolution on a GIS platform, for use in a chemical transport model (ATMoS).

The modeled concentrations for the urban area ranged 153±70 micro-g/m3, when overlaid on gridded population, resulted in estimated 1000 to 1500 premature deaths per year due to outdoor air pollution. This study also highlights the linkages between indoor and outdoor air pollution.

In these harsh temperate conditions, with 50% of the emissions originating from Ger households, they are as big a health risk for indoor air quality, as they are for outdoor air quality. Any intervention improving the combustion efficiency or providing clean fuel for these stoves will have a combined benefit for indoor air quality, outdoor air quality, and climate policy. The analysis shows that aggressive pollution control measures are imperative to protect the population in Ulaanbaatar from excess exposure levels and implementation of control measures like introduction of heat efficient stoves, clean coal for heating boilers, and urban transport planning, will result in significant health benefits, which surpass any costs of institutional, technical, and economic interventions.

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