Pennsylvania to Tehran: Still Sick of Smog

Many will have heard of the October 1952 "Killer Fog" of London, during which thousands died from breathing polluted air. Or the US' "Killer Smog" of 1948, during which several people were asphyxiated and over 7,000 made ill as the result of severe air pollution over a small town in western Pennsylvania. A half century later, "killer" air pollution events still come to large cities, mainly in nations with so-called developing economies. In the latest event, more than 1,600 people have been taken to hospitals in Tehran. The Iranian culprit is not coal fired heaters or smelters, as was the case in London or Pennsylvania, respectively. These days the grim reapers are internal combustion engines, usually very old ones with no design accomodation for pollution control.
According to a BBC report, Tehran "public offices and schools have been closed in an attempt to reduce traffic, and clear the city's blanket of smog...Authorities have blamed the severe smog on emissions from the capital's three million cars, many of which lack modern exhaust filters. It is estimated that up to 5,000 people die every year from air pollution in the city".

What sort of vehicles are most commonly driven in Tehran? According to several European news reports 'most of the city's more than 2 million cars are at least 20 years old and lack catalytic converters'. WIth fuel prices subsidised in Iran, gasoline costs a little over 30 cents a gallon. Not much incentive to look for better mileage even for those with the money to get a new car.

Cities such as Mexico City, Beijing, Calcutta, Jakarta, New Delhi, Shanghai and Tehran are well known for high levels air pollution. Few SUV's and Trucks exist to point the finger of blame at.

Two things jump out at us from the parable of developing Mega-Cities. One is that citizens probably rank remedy for climate change pretty far down on their list of priorities. No surprise to see little support for Kyoto from them. The second thing which stands out is that the vehicular design remedies for climate change could easily help with local pollution problems. Pehaps one day there will be a world car that can be upgraded over the years. Woudn't that be a design for sustainability?

Candidates? One of the popular "new" cars sold in Tehran is the Kia Pride, as shown above in the graphic. Those Korean designed mini's get over 40 mpg.