The UB Post
Mongolia’s cold season seems to have come earlier this year. By mid-September, the 215,000 families living in ger areas in Ulaanbaatar had begun burning coal in their home for heating and the central heating system started warming apartments on September 15.
Winter is the least welcomed season in Mongolia because it not only makes it harder for children to play outside but also brings air pollution and various seasonal diseases. Indeed, we try to keep it merry with Christmaslike festivities but we can’t deny our concerns for the smog, which envelopes the entire capital during winter.
The government is taking strides to address the issue but they have yet to effectively address the issue. In the meantime, here are a few things you need to know and things you can do to better prepare yourself and your family for the cold weather, which will most likely decline to freezing temperatures in the coming days and cause problems related to air pollution.
WEAKENED IMMUNITY STRUGGLE TO FIGHT VIRUS INFECTIONS
“As soon as the allergy season ended in late August, the prevalence of upper airway inflammatory diseases and bronchial hyper responsiveness dramatically increased this year”, said doctor N.Narya, who specializes in lung diseases and heads the Internal Medicine Ward at the Ulaanbaatar Songdo Hospital.
Noting that many people have already been affected by upper airway inflammatory diseases, doctor N.Narya explained that most people weren’t prepared for sudden temperature drops after an unusually long allergy season this year, which didn’t provide enough time for people’s immunity to recover in time for the cold season. She added that based on international reports, viral infections emerged early this year across the globe and that many have already been affected.
Common respiratory and lung diseases in Mongolia are directly linked to cold weather. Experts found that long-term Ulaanbaatar residents and people who haven’t lived in the city for a long time are affected by respiratory diseases differently. In particular, longterm city residents are more likely to be affected by severe forms of diseases and local medicines aren’t as effective on them as on people who recently moved to the city.
KEEP CHILDREN INDOORS DURING THE COLDEST TIME OF THE YEAR
With the high prevalence of respiratory and lung diseases, almost all children catch the flu during winter and have to take medicine. In concern for their medicine intake, children are advised to stay indoors to prevent catching the flu and if already affected, prevent the risk of worsening their condition and spreading the disease to others.
Luckily, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports changed dates for school breaks so that students, especially those in primary schools, can stay indoors in December and early January when the air pollution rate is highest.
Doctors gave following recommendations to prevent respiratory diseases during cold seasons and when there’s a high level of air pollution.
» Do not consume medicines without a doctor’s prescription. » Make sure to dress warmly and drink plenty of liquids (It’s best to drink warm water, raisin juice and vitamin C supplements)
» It’s best to drink vitamins that you need based on your weight and age.
» Get vaccinated for flu – highly recommended for young children and adults prone to catching severe forms of respiratory diseases.
» Make a habit of wearing scarves and masks. (Avoid inhaling cold air directly through your mouth to prevent throat inflammation.)
» Keep children indoors during winter. If you have to get your child out of the house, make sure to avoid having them travel in cars for a long period of time and have air conditioning in the car.
INDOOR AIR POLLUTION IS DIRECTLY LINKED TO OUTDOOR POLLUTION
We can’t make significant improvement to the indoor air quality without effectively reducing outdoor air pollution, according to researchers. Experts also believe that better indoor air quality can bring positive effects to people’s health.
Studies proved that families burning raw coal in their homes are exposed to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides levels higher than the globally approved level.
The average indoor air quality is 1.9 times worse than the approved level, according to a study conducted by the Institute of Public Health in the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences at four kindergartens located in ger areas. Scientists stressed that the indoor air pollution has reached hazardous level to health.
Researchers determined the direct link between indoor and outdoor air quality. In other words, the indoor air quality deteriorates as the air outside deteriorates. New studies show that high efficiency particulate air filters can reduce indoor PM 2.5 level by 3.2 folds. Researchers encouraged people to use filters and air purifiers at schools, workplaces and homes since people spend around 90 percent of their life indoors. Based on research, improving outdoor air pollution will result in significant improvement to indoor air quality and ultimately bring positive effects to the health.
UP TO 50% COAL USAGE CUT IS POSSIBLE WITH BETTER INSULATION
Director of Goyo Dulguun Urgoo Company B.Oyunbaatar reported that people can reduce coal consumption by 40 to 50 percent if insulation of buildings is improved to prevent heat loss.
“People say that they have minimal heat loss because their home is built with bricks but brick isn’t an insulation material. There are three types of heat loss – conduction, convection and radiation and it’s possible to lose heat through the flood, walls, windows, and ceiling. You can minimize heat loss by around 50 percent by just laying a light floor board because most of heat loss occurs through the floor. ”
The most commonly used insulation material in Mongolia is spray foams. However, experts discourage people to use spray foams because it brings more disadvantages to a structure than advantages. Instead, they recommend that you use basalt boards made from volcanic rock.
Basalt fiber is known as green industrial material. Basalt fibers are known for having good physical and chemical properties, as well as good adhesion to metals, epoxies and glues. Not only do they boast good mechanical and chemical resistance, but also exhibit excellent thermal, electric and acoustic insulation properties.
“Heat loss in gers usually occur through radiation. Therefore, it’s best to insulate it by covering walls with a light and soft material on the inside or outside,” B.Oyunbaatar advised.
GOVERNMENT EFFORTS TO
The government issued a ban on the shipment and burning of raw coals to the city starting May 15 next year. To substitute raw coals, city authorities estimate that 600,000 tons of briquettes are required and assured that its production will begin soon.
City authorities hope to decrease air pollution by 20 percent this year through a set of measures, which include:
• Supply 80,000 tons of improved fuel and briquette to residents in eight khoroos of Songinokhairkhan District, where the largest ger area is located.
• Reduce heat loss in apartments, gers and offices.
• Install filters in buses to reduce toxic emissions.
• Connect ger areas to the central heating system through sectional projects.
The National Air Pollution Reduction Committee considered stopping sales of AI-92, A-80 and diesel fuels below Euro-3 standard, installing filters in 1,000 public buses, and banning large buses that run on diesel from entering Ulaanbaatar before May 2019 in order to cut air pollution. However, the committee hasn’t processed these proposals yet, according to the mayor of Ulaanbaatar.
Considering the risks that come with winter, it’s necessary for all of us to take preventive measures for everything that can be prevented. With winter officially here in Mongolia, we must no longer push back solutions for the city smog.