A limit on the emission of air pollutants in the Kaohsiung metropolitan area, which has the worst air quality in Taiwan, will be set in 2003, the Environmental Protection Administration announced yesterday.
The region encompassing Kaoshiung City, Kaohsiung County and Pingtung County has been an industrial area for decades and home to factories making steel, chemical petroleum products and cement.
EPA officials said that air quality in Taiwan has improved since 1996. In 2000, only 4.05 percent of days recorded were "unhealthy," which means that air quality monitoring stations recorded pollution standards index values above 100. The Kaohsiung metropolitan area was, however, responsible for 10.72 percent of these `unhealthy' days.
The index is calculated on a daily basis for many major metropolitan areas. It converts measured pollutant concentrations in a community's air to a number on a scale from zero to 500. In Taiwan, the most significant outdoor air pollutants are ozone and PM10 (particles bigger than 10 micrograms). According to the EPA, a level in excess of 100 means that the air is in the unhealthy range.
EPA officials said at a press conference yesterday that a project to improve the air quality in Kaohsiung metropolitan area has already been mapped out. The goal is to reduce the total of "bad air" days in the area to 6 percent by 2006.
"The EPA will conduct emission inspections and establish a system for trading emission quotas after discussing it with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the three local governments in the area," said Fang Shu-hwei (方淑慧), an official from the EPA Bureau of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control (空保處).
Before setting the emission limit in 2003, Fang said, the EPA would encourage local governments to control the emission of outdoor air pollutants from factories.
"In addition, we will help farmers have their agricultural waste burned in waste incinerators rather than outdoors," Fang said.
Asked if the EPA would adopt a stricter system to measure air quality, similar to the higher standards used in some developed countries, Fang said that the administration's Environmental Moni-toring and Data Processing Bureau had considered adopting tougher measures.
Fang said that they are aware that the main factor which determines how deeply particle matter penetrates the lungs is the size of the particle.
The nasal passages filter particles bigger than 10 micrograms. Scientific evidence has demonstrated that children often breathe through their mouths and bypass this filtering method. In the US, there is increasing evidence that points to very fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrograms as being a significant health concern.
Since July 1999, the US EPA has replaced the PSI scale with its new Air Quality Index in order to incorporate new Federal ozone and 2.5 microgram standards. The index is designed to provide accurate, timely and easily understandable information about daily levels of air pollution.
Taiwan currently only has 5 mo-nitoring stations capable of detecting 2.5 microgram-sized particles.