Iranian cities evacuated by smog alert

Iranian authorities on Jan. 2 advised the 1.5 million residents of Isfahan to leave the city if they can because air pollution has reached emergency levels. (BBC Radio, Jan. 2) Tehran's Air Quality Control Company also warned Jan. 2 that air pollution in the capital has also reached alarming levels, and ordered elementary schools and daycare centers closed in the city due to heavy smog. (Mehr News Agency, Jan. 1) Early last month, Tehran residents were likewise urged by authorities to lave the city in response to "dangerous" smog levels, blamed on nearly incessant bumper-to-bumper traffic. Similar edicts were issued for Isfahan and Arak. Schools were also ordered closed, and a cabinet meeting in the capital cancelled. Hospital admissions during the smog alert jumped by 15%, primarily due to people suffering headaches, respiratory problems and nausea. (AAP, Dec. 6; IBT, Dec. 5; AFP, Dec. 3)
The Isfahan evacuation advisory sparked speculation that the move was really ordered due to a mishap at the city's Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF). Last month, Iranian authorities denied foreign media reports about claims of a radiation leak at the UCF.  "The rumors about leaking and contamination at Isfahan's UCF are not true at all; some western media are just seeking to create tumult in the society through such moves," said provincial deputy governor-general for security affairs Mohammad Mehdi Esmayeeli. (Free Beacon, Jan. 2; Fars News Agency, Dec. 9)

Tehran air pollution leaves 4,460 dead: health official

Air pollution in Tehran has left 4,460 people dead in a year, an Iranian health official said Jan. 6, with another sounding the alarm over high dose of carcinogens in domestically-made petrol. Hassan Aqajani, an adviser to the Health Ministry, made the announcement on state television, saying the Tehran residents had died in a year-long period starting March 2011. High air pollution forced the city's closure again on Jan. 5, the second time in a month. "In recent days, the number of patients who have visited Tehran hospitals with heart problems has increased by 30 percent," Aqajani said. (AFP, Jan. 6)