Wed, Feb 05, 2014 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Air pollution reason for concern: groups

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

“When wind speeds exceed 3 meters per second, gusts of fugitive dust with PM10 concentration levels above 250μg/m3 are likely to occur,” he said.

The EPA’s monitoring data showed that the maximum reading of PM10 concentration levels soared up to 2,532μg/m3 in Yunlin County’s Lunbei Township (崙背) and 1,793μg/m3 at Chiayi County’s Puzih City (朴子) in 2009, and to 582μg/m3 at Puzih and 497μg/m3 at Lunbei last year.

Chang said that the causes are closely related to heavy rainfall and mudslides during Typhoon Morakot in 2009 and a magnitude 6.3 earthquake that occurred in Nantou County in June last year.

Civic groups and lawmakers have repeatedly called for stricter standards and solutions amid increased exposure to high levels of PM2.5 that are suggested in scientific studies to be linked with numerous health problems — including asthma, bronchitis, acute and chronic respiratory symptoms, and even premature deaths — and PM10 in recent years.

The EPA began following Japan’s move to issue warnings when the PM2.5 level reaches more than 80μg/m3, as the elderly, young children, and people with lung, throat, nose or respiratory problems are more at risk when daily average PM2.5 concentration levels exceed 70μg/m3.

During a committee meeting earlier this month at the legislature in Taipei, the EPA agreed to formulate the Air Quality Index (AQI) that will further include PM2.5 readings and an 8-hour average of ozone.

However, Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance founder Yeh Guang-peng (葉光芃) said that although the government is moving in the right direction, “its pace is always too slow. It only agrees [to take action] when we [civic groups] push it.”

Government data from Switzerland showed that an estimated 3,700 people die each year from causes related to air pollution, he said.

“Considering that Switzerland’s average PM10 concentration level is about 20μg/m3, the question is how many people will be affected when the levels reach 70μg/m3 in Taiwan,” Yeh added.

Yeh said that while Japan and South Korea are beginning to work together to combat air pollution, the Taiwanese government has not done enough to combat pollution and should communicate with China on how to control dust storms and haze.

He added that air pollutant levels should not be blamed solely on cross-border transfer or extreme weather, because long-term collection and comparison of air quality data from Taiwan and other countries showed that Taiwan’s concentration levels of PM2.5 and PM10 were often higher than those of many other countries.

Yeh said that although he was aware that it would not be easy to reach the ideal levels immediately, civic groups felt that the government has not been sincere enough in its efforts to push for stricter regulations and in planning solutions to improve air quality.

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