Fine dust chokes much of South Korea

Iran Daily - - Cultural Heritage & Environment -

Seoul and sur­round­ing ar­eas was blan­keted in un­healthy lev­els of fine dust par­ti­cles through Sun­day, a lo­cal re­search sta­tion said as the air qual­ity se­verely wors­ened.

The level of PM2.5 fine dust par­ti­cles reached an av­er­age of 73 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter of air in dis­tricts in Seoul Sun­day morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional In­sti­tute of En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­search (NIER), a gov­ern­ment-es­tab­lished think tank, ko­re­a­joon­gang­ re­ported.

Through Sun­day, the level rose to an av­er­age of 80 mi­cro­grams in Seoul.

PM2.5 fine dust par­ti­cles are par­ti­cles less than 2.5 mi­crom­e­ters in di­am­e­ter and about 30 times smaller than the width of a hu­man hair. The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) de­scribes them as car­cino­genic since PM2.5 par­ti­cles can travel through the res­pi­ra­tory tract and reach the blood­stream, caus­ing lung can­cer and other lung con­di­tions, as well as heart con­di­tions and strokes.

The lev­els in Seoul Sun­day were triple the rec­om­mended level of daily ex­po­sure to PM2.5 by the WHO, which is 25 mi­cro­grams.

Most of the coun­try ex­pe­ri­enced un­healthy lev­els of fine dust par­ti­cles in the air. The level of PM2.5 reached 85 mi­cro­grams in the af­ter­noon in Gyeonggi, 81 mi­cro­grams in Se­jong and 93 mi­cro­grams in North Chungcheong.

NIER cat­e­go­rizes the level of PM2.5 in the air in four lev­els: Very un­healthy if there are more than 76 mi­cro­grams; un­healthy if there are be­tween 36 to 75 mi­cro­grams; mod­er­ate if there are be­tween 16 to 35 mi­cro­grams; and good if there are be­tween 0 to 15 mi­cro­grams.

NIER said that in ar­eas ex­pe­ri­enc­ing un­healthy to very un­healthy lev­els of PM2.5, res­i­dents must avoid pro­longed out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. The Seoul city gov­ern­ment closed down its open-air ice skat­ing rink in front of City Hall Sun­day.

Some par­ents with young chil­dren found in­door spa­ces to spend the week­end to­gether.

You have to wait about an hour in the queue be­fore you can en­ter,” one em­ployee of an in­door play­ground told a par­ent in Yeouido, western Seoul.

“The place is es­pe­cially pop­u­lar to­day, prob­a­bly be­cause of the fine dust in the air.”

NIER fore­cast that due to stag­nant air and in­flow­ing fine dust par­ti­cles from out­side of the coun­try, the high lev­els of fine dust will per­sist Mon­day through­out the coun­try.

There have been dis­agree­ments on how much of the fine dust par­ti­cles in Korea are do­mes­ti­cally pro­duced or in­bound from over­seas.

In joint re­search con­ducted in May and June 2016 be­tween NIER and NASA, 52 per­cent of the air pol­lu­tants in the coun­try were found to have been pro­duced lo­cally, while 48 per­cent were at­trib­uted to ex­ter­nal fac­tors — about 34 per­cent of which were from China.

But the gen­eral per­cep­tion in Korea re­mains that fine dust par­ti­cles from China are the main cause of air pol­lu­tion — 52 per­cent of peo­ple sur­veyed by the Korean Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment in Oc­to­ber last year said China is the main cause of air pol­lu­tion in Korea.

A spokesper­son for the Chi­nese Min­istry of Ecol­ogy and En­vi­ron­ment, Liu Youbin, re­futed this on Dec. 28, when she said in a press brief­ing that the air qual­ity in China has im­proved over the years through reg­u­la­tory mea­sures, while that of Korea has de­te­ri­o­rated in the same pe­riod.

“For fine dust par­ti­cles from China to land in Korea, they will have to travel on the up­per­most level of the at­mo­sphere,” an air qual­ity ex­pert from the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences told the Joon­gang Ilbo on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

“I think only 10 per­cent of Bei­jing’s fine dust par­ti­cles will travel that high and into Korea.”

Some ex­perts have pointed to emis­sions from ports along the coastal re­gions of China as sources of air pol­lu­tion in Korea.

“It’s true that there are lots of air pol­lu­tants com­ing from these ports,” one air qual­ity ex­pert told the Joon­gang Ilbo.

“But there haven’t been stud­ies on this topic in China yet.”

NIER an­a­lyzed the monthly level of fine dust par­ti­cles from 2015 to 2017 and con­cluded that 19 to 67 per­cent of fine dust par­ti­cles in the air were in­bound from else­where. The per­cent­age tended to be higher in the win­ter, it said. Of the in­bound par­ti­cles, it said that those from China took up some 30 pe­cent to 40 per­cent.


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