Sun, Apr 08, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Severe pollution likely to disperse

UNCLEAR:Act Clean Taiwan has questioned claims that hazardous air quality levels are the result of dust stirred up from a dry riverbed in a Yunlin County township

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Air pollution blankets Taipei yesterday, as the nation’s air quality worsened when a sandstorm began to affect Taiwan.

Photo: CNA

The nation’s most serious air pollution since 2012 is expected to improve today with the influence of a sandstorm weakening, an Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) official said yesterday.

The nation’s air quality has worsened since Friday evening when the sandstorm from China’s Gansu Province and Inner Mongolia began to affect Taiwan, EPA Department of Environmental Monitoring and Information Management Director-General Chang Shuenn-chin (張順欽) said.

As of 11am yesterday, the agency’s air quality monitoring station in Yunlin County’s Taisi Township (台西) indicated hazardous air quality levels, which is indicated by the color maroon on the EPA Web site.

The key air pollutant in the township was coarse dust particles that measured 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller (PM10).

PM10 concentration soared to 628 micrograms per cubic meter yesterday morning, but dropped to 270 micrograms per cubic meter by 6pm yesterday, EPA data showed.

The poor air quality was caused by dust from the Jhuoshuei River’s (濁水溪) dry banks, which was carried on strong winds, Chang said, adding that local wind speed reached 14 meters per second.

The influence of air pollution from China is expected to diminish following the weakening of northeastern monsoon winds today, Chang said.

Air quality in central Taiwan is less likely to improve, as atmospheric conditions are not conducive to the diffusion of pollutants, Chang added.

However, environmental group Act Clean Taiwan questioned the agency’s claim that the township’s pollution was caused by riverbed dust.

The only monitoring station to indicate hazardous levels was in the industrial area of Taisi, the group said, adding that other monitoring stations in the township should have also hit hazardous levels if the dust was the cause of the pollution.

Meanwhile, Tri-Service General Hospital Ophthalmology Department director Lu Da-wen (呂大文) said the hospital has seen an increase of outpatient visits for eye swelling complaints.

“People should avoid rubbing their eyes, or more particles could get into the eyes and break the small blood vessels within, causing subconjunctival hemorrhage,” he said, adding that people can use an antihistamine solution or a wet towel to alleviate discomfort.

“People should avoid outdoor activities when air quality is poor, but if it is unavoidable, people should wear glasses or goggles while outside,” he said, adding that wearing contact lenses could attract pollutants.

People who have allergies, asthma or who are using eye drops to treat glaucoma or macular degeneration should be on high alert during a sandstorm, Lu said.

Additional reporting by CNA

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