Toxic smog in Mongolia's capital worsens amid harsh winter

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Toxic smog getting worse in Mongolia amid harsh winter
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Toxic smog getting worse in Mongolia amid harsh winter
Emissions from a power plant chimney rise over Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 13, 2017. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man walks on the roof of a traditional ger home while fixing the chimney of a coal burning stove on a cold hazy day on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 19, 2017. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Bags of coal and wood are offered for sale in central Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 26, 2017. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman wears a face mask in the part of the city near neighbourhoods known for burning coal for heating in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 26, 2017. Not many people in Ulaanbaatar wear masks to protect themselves against pollution. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Setevdorj Myagmartsogt smokes a cigarette outside his tent-like ger home, which is heated by coal burning stove, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 29, 2017. Setevdorj Myagmartsogt lives with his wife, four children and two relatives in his ger near a coal depot not far from the centre of the Mongolian capital. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Power plant chimneys stand behind a coal burning neighbourhood covered in a thick haze on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 19, 2017. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
People commute in an industrial area on a cold day in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, January 19, 2017. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bags of coal and wood are offered for sale in central Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 26, 2017. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A miner smokes a cigarette at a primitive coal mine outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 27, 2017. The miners at the Nalaikh coal deposit, outside the Mongolian capital, go as much as 60 meters underground to mine the coal. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A protester wears a face mask and holds a banner during an anti-pollution protest in central Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 28, 2017. The banners read �moke-free Ulaanbaatar,��o More Agony for Ulaanbaatar,��he Solution to Reducing Air Pollution is Urban Development". REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Setevdorj Myagmartsogt holds his hands above his new coal burning stove while talking to reporters in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 29, 2017. Setevdorj Myagmartsogt lives with his wife, four children and two relatives in his cramped ger home above a coal depot not far from the city centre. The government offers free electricity to homes without access to city's central heating grid, but electric heating units are too expensive to families like Myagmartsogt�. The family doesn� have access to their own electricity line and borrows it from a neighbour. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The wife and children of Setevdorj Myagmartsogt gather around their new coal burning stove while talking to reporters in their tent-like ger home in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 29, 2017. Setevdorj Myagmartsogt, a part time worker at coal packing shop, lives with his wife, four kids and two relatives in their ger home near a coal depot not far from the city centre. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Workers enter the shaft of a primitive coal mine outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 27, 2017. The miners at the Nalaikh coal deposit, outside the Mongolian capital, go as much as 60 meters underground to mine the coal. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman wears a costume as she takes part in an anti-pollution protest in front of a government building in central Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 28, 2017. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
People work at a primitive coal mine outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 27, 2017. The miners at the Nalaikh coal deposit, outside the Mongolian capital, go as much as 60 meters underground to mine the coal. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorjj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
People wait for the bus on a cold polluted day in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 19, 2017. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Cars drive through the thick haze on a cold polluted morning in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia January 19, 2017. REUTERS/B. Rentsendorj SEARCH "RENTSENDORJ POLLUTION" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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ULAANBAATAR, Feb 7 (Reuters) - On most winter mornings, Setevdorj Myagmartsogt wakes up to a cloud of toxic smog blanketing his neighborhood in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, where the air quality is among the worst in the world.

The city's air, which is at times far worse than Beijing's infamous smog, has become more polluted because of smoke from thousands of chimneys burning coal, wood and even trash, as poor residents try to stay warm during brutal winters.

"Because of the air pollution, our health is getting worse," Myagmartsogt told Reuters.

"When my two youngest kids go to kindergarten, they get ill every week and they have to stay away ... It's because of the air pollution."

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The capital's total emissions of harmful breathable particles known as PM2.5 surged to as high of 855 micrograms per cubic meter late last month. In comparison, Beijing's air on the same day, measured 70 micrograms.

The acceptable standard, according to the World Health Organisation, is 20-25 micrograms. The reading in Ulaanbaatar has been known to hit 1,000 micrograms.

About 80 percent of the city's smog comes from poor "ger" districts, a sprawl of traditional tents that have sprung up on the edge of the city, said Tsogtbaatar Byamba, director of Mongolia's Institute of Public Health.

Many residents are former herders who migrated to the city after their livestock was wiped out by recent extremely harsh winters, which have become more common, partly because of climate change.

As temperatures plunge to as low as minus 40 Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit), ger residents with no access to the state heating grid burn whatever they can to keep warm.

To combat this, the government last month bolstered restrictions on migrants to the capital, allowing only those in need of long-term help and people who own homes until the end of the year.

But the pollution persists.

Related: Similar air pollution plaguing Paris:

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Pollution in Paris
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Pollution in Paris
PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 07: The Eiffel Tower and the business district of La Defense surrounded by high levels of air pollution are seen at sunset on December 07, 2016 in Paris, France. The Paris region has experienced the longest and most intense 'winter' pollution spike in ten years, according to Airparif (Ile-de-France Air Quality Monitoring Association). For the third consecutive day the alternating circulation in Paris was carried back to Paris announced the prefecture of police. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 07: The Eiffel Tower and the business district of La Defense surrounded by high levels of air pollution are seen at sunset on December 07, 2016 in Paris, France. The Paris region has experienced the longest and most intense 'winter' pollution spike in ten years, according to Airparif (Ile-de-France Air Quality Monitoring Association). For the third consecutive day the alternating circulation in Paris was carried back to Paris announced the prefecture of police. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
Cars drive on the Peripherique in Paris on December 8, 2016 as city authorities announced traffic restrictions would be extended to December 8, with a ban imposed on private cars with registration plates ending in even numbers. Paris was smothered on December 7 by its worst winter pollution in a decade, with commuters enjoying free public transport and half of all cars ordered off the road to try to clear the air. / AFP / JACQUES DEMARTHON (Photo credit should read JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 07: The Eiffel Tower and the business district of La Defense surrounded by high levels of air pollution are seen at sunset on December 07, 2016 in Paris, France. The Paris region has experienced the longest and most intense 'winter' pollution spike in ten years, according to Airparif (Ile-de-France Air Quality Monitoring Association). For the third consecutive day the alternating circulation in Paris was carried back to Paris announced the prefecture of police. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 07: The Sacre-Coeur basilica surrounded by high levels of air pollution is seen at sunset on December 07, 2016 in Paris, France. The Paris region has experienced the longest and most intense 'winter' pollution spike in ten years, according to Airparif (Ile-de-France Air Quality Monitoring Association). For the third consecutive day the alternating circulation in Paris was carried back to Paris announced the prefecture of police. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
Water vapour billows from smokestacks at the incineration plant of Ivry-sur-Seine, near Paris, France at sunrise, France, December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
A small-particle haze hangs above the Eiffel Tower, that is seen on the horizon from Suresnes, near Paris, France, December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
The sun rises behind a tree as a small-particle haze hangs in the sky above the Paris region in France, December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
A French policewoman stands in the street as she verifies automobile registration plates as authorities imposed alternate vehicle circulation days to reduce car traffic and pollution in Paris, France, December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 08: The Eiffel Tower surrounded by high levels of air pollution is seen on December 08, 2016 in Paris, France. The Paris region has experienced the longest and most intense 'winter' pollution spike in ten years, according to Airparif (Ile-de-France Air Quality Monitoring Association). Alternate traffic will be renewed on December 09. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 08: The Eiffel Tower surrounded by high levels of air pollution is seen on December 08, 2016 in Paris, France. The Paris region has experienced the longest and most intense 'winter' pollution spike in ten years, according to Airparif (Ile-de-France Air Quality Monitoring Association). Alternate traffic will be renewed on December 09. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 08: A cyclist with a mask of protection against pollution during high levels of air pollution is seen on December 08, 2016 in Paris, France. The Paris region has experienced the longest and most intense 'winter' pollution spike in ten years, according to Airparif (Ile-de-France Air Quality Monitoring Association). Alternate traffic will be renewed on December 09. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
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Hundreds of residents gathered recently in the city's Chinggis Square to protest against the government's inability to tackle the smog. Demonstration organizers collected more than 7,000 signatures.

"The air pollution has had real consequences in my life," said protester Otgontuya Baldandorj.

"I was pregnant three times, but I lost all of them. With my fourth child, I had to go to the countryside to get fresh air to give birth."

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