Particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers wide (PM2.5) and the hazards posed to the body show a direct relation between the density of PM2.5 matter emitted by the Greater Taichung coal-fired power station and the decrease of lifespan as well as the increased risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases, a recent study by National Chung Hsing University professor Tsuang Ben-jei (莊秉潔) said.
The findings were recently published in the international periodical Atmospheric Environment.
According to Tsuang, PM2.5 has been proven by foreign studies to increase the rates of triggering asthma or contracting cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
“Pope et al have shown in their 2009 paper that for every microgram per cubic meter of PM2.5, life expectancy goes down by 20 days,” Tsuang said, adding that other US research showed that on average, every incidence of PM2.5 increase caused 0.35 percent of general deaths and 0.88 percent due to lung cancer.
The Taichung coal-fired power plant is the largest in the world and a stable emitter of PM2.5, Tsuang said, adding that his team found that the power plant in 1997 put out 864 tonnes of PM2.5 and 93,000 tonnes of sulphur oxides. The emissions caused an increase of 2.53 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5, the equivalent of a decrease of 115 days of life expectancy for every person on the island, Tsuang said.
Despite the addition since 2007 of equipment at the plant to decrease the average emission of sulphur oxides to 14,000 tonnes, the plant still contributes 598 tonnes of PM2.5 yearly, increasing Taiwan’s annual PM2.5 density by 0.7 micrograms per cubic meter, he said.
The Environmental Protection Administration isolated PM2.5 as a standalone figure last year. Since then it has increased by 24 micrograms per cubic meter.
The current emission rate is capable of decreasing life expectancy by 15.4 days and is still beyond the amount human bodies can sustain, Tsuang’s studies show.
Tsuang said the government could change from coal-fired plants to power plants using cleaner natural gas, or even move the plants out of the more populated western part of Taiwan.
The Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Pingtung County’s Ma-anshan District (馬鞍山) is a possible spot for relocation, as it would lower the impact on public health, Tsuang said.
Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) said that research on PM2.5 analysis and control last year showed that the particulate matter produced impacted less than 1 percent of the total amount of PM2.5, adding that the emissions were well within regulations.
However, Taipower said that it would continue to invest in natural gas power plants, such as projects in Taoyuan County’s Datan Township (大潭) and Miaoli County’s Tongsiao Township (通霄).
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