By Michael Grantham
In 2019, the World Air Quality Report listed Hanoi as one of Southeast Asia’s most polluted cities. Exposure to the fine particles in polluted air can cause serious medical problems, including strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory infections. Air quality experts from the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution reported that, in 2017, there were more than 71,000 air-pollution-related deaths in Vietnam. Embassy Hanoi hosted its first Mission Air Fair to raise awareness of these issues. At the Air Fair, embassy team members learned how to manage their daily lives in a polluted city and how to take steps to improve air quality.
Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink, Deputy Chief of Mission Christopher Klein, and Management Counselor Daniel McCullough kicked off the Air Fair by emphasizing the importance of understanding air pollution and the associated health risks. Presentations throughout the day highlighted the sources of pollution, its effects on the body, how to protect oneself, and ways to improve air quality. General Service Officer Geoffrey Bishop gave tips on improving the air quality at home; Environmental, Science & Technology, and Health Officer Holly Lindquist Thomas gave a presentation called, “Air Pollution: What causes it and what can you do to help”; and Post Medical Provider Shawn Lockett illustrated the health consequences of air pollution.
The Air Fair took place in the embassy’s multipurpose room, which was open all day, allowing employees to drop by, collect information, and ask specialists and experts questions. Local company Environmental Source Samplers Inc. described how the embassy’s air quality monitor works. The facilities department showcased different air purifier models, and the medical unit demonstrated the proper way to wear N95 masks.
The event was live-streamed via Cisco WebEx to account for quarantined employees and social distancing precautions. Mission personnel deemed the event a great success and hope it will be repeated annually.
Michael Grantham is the information programs officer at Embassy Hanoi.