Primary schools in Iran's capital city of Tehran, home to nearly 14 million residents, except in two towns, along with some other parts in the country have been shut as a thick blanket of smog has covered the city's neighborhoods in the past few days, raising the toxic air pollution levels significantly.
"Tehran is suffocating (but) hundreds of thousands of cars are built each year," Hossein, a man in his sixties said, the Jakarta Post reported.
"They're building in the mountains, they're destroying our forests. We don't want any more oil, we don't want any more petrol," he added. "We need clean air for our children's future."
Government authorities announced the closure late Saturday as the airborne concentration of fine particles (PM2.5) hit 185 microgrammes per cubic metre in the south of Tehran and 174 in its centre on Sunday morning, which is way higher than the World Health Organization recommended maximum of 25 microgrammes per m3 over a 24-hour period, AFP reported.
The local authorities have also reinforced traffic restrictions in the capital's center and ordered mines and cement factories in the city to shut down. Elderly, children and pregnant women, people with heart issues have been advised to stay indoors.
Ali Ebrahimian, a retiree, told AFP he only stepped outside to sort out "an urgent matter."
Another old woman, Fatemeh Assadi, in her sixties, accused the authorities of failing to prevent the pollution.
"The government's not doing anything," she said.
In the northwestern cities of Tabriz and Urmia, schools remained closed for the second day straight on Sunday, official news agency IRNA stated.
Each year, Tehran suffers some of the worst pollution levels in the world when cool temperatures cause an effect known as "temperature inversion" resulting in a layer of warm air which is created above the city, trapping pollution from several city pollutants, including, over eight million cars and motorbikes.
In 2014, almost 400 people were hospitalized with heart and respiratory issues caused by pollution in Tehran. Nearly 1,500 others required treatment.
In 2012, the pollution resulted in nearly 4500 premature deaths in Tehran and about 80,000 across the country, the health ministry estimated.