The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday announced air quality monitoring results for last month, based on the PM2.5 index, the first time the results have been announced since the index was introduced.
The measurements showed that Yunlin and Chiayi counties and Greater Tainan had the poorest air quality last month, recording a 12.7 percent ratio of exposure to excessive PM2.5 levels.
Greater Taichung and Nantou and Changhua counties recorded the second-worst air quality, with a 10.95 percent ratio of exposure to air quality measuring “level 7” or above on the index, followed by Greater Kaohsiung and Pingtung County’s 5.4 percent.
Greater Taipei and Taoyuan County rated a 0.62 percent ratio of exposure to potentially dangerous PM2.5 levels, while Yilan, Hualien, Taitung and Penghu counties never exceeded “level 7.”
Department of Air Quality Protection and Air Control Director-General Chen Hsien-heng (陳咸亨) said that PM2.5 pollution is carried by the prevalent northeastern trade winds that blow through the nation every fall and winter and are a major source of air pollution.
PM2.5, or particulate matter of less than 2.5 micrometers, refers to tiny fragments of material in the air that can easily enter alveoli in lungs and are known to be implicated in a range of respiratory diseases, the EPA said.
Under the EPA’s system, “level 7” on the PM2.5 index indicates a concentration level of 54 to 58 micrograms of pollutant per cubic meter of air, which could cause discomfort to people’s eyes and throats or induce coughing.
The EPA recommends staying indoors when the PM2.5 index reaches “level 7” or above.
When asked which index people should follow — the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) or the PM2.5 index — if they present conflicting information, Chen said that the latter more accurately reflects the immediate health danger.
“When the PSI is high, people who must go outdoors can protect themselves by wearing a mask, but even that will not help to screen out PM2.5,” he said, adding that one should avoid strenuous exercises when exposed to high PM2.5 levels.
Chen added that the EPA has teamed up with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to develop the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), which aims to determine indices after factoring in the health hazards PM2.5 and other air pollutants have on humans.
The system is scheduled to be implemented in 2016, he said.
Following a tightening of regulations on air pollution emissions by petrochemical equipment, gas flares, refineries and cauldrons, the EPA is set to announce a stricter set of standards governing air pollutants discharged by electronic devices by the end of this year.
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