Air pollution has reached serious levels in most of western Taiwan and Kinmen County, so people are advised to wear masks when going out, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.
The EPA said the pollution standard index in Greater Kaohsiung and Pingtung County ranged between 90 and 115, adding that it reached a red alert level because of a high concentration of airborne particles. Any figure above 100 indicates poor air quality.
The rest of the nation is being affected by air pollution to some degree, except for Hualien and Taitung counties, where the air quality is good, the EPA said. Of greater concern is that the concentration of dangerous PM2.5 particles — airborne particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in size — has reached high to very high levels in central Taiwan and the Yunlin-Chiayi-Tainan area, and extremely high levels in the Kaohsiung-Pingtung area and Kinmen.
The EPA reminded the public to wear masks when going out and suggested that people who have eye or throat pain or coughs reduce their outdoor activities.
Senior citizens and people who have heart or respiratory problems should also avoid being outdoors as much as possible, the agency recommended.
The smaller PM2.5 particles are considered dangerous because they usually contain more toxic matter — such as heavy metals — and travel deeper into people’s lungs. Academia Sinica Research Center for Environmental Changes associate research fellow Candice Lung (龍世俊) said that PM2.5 particles can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing chronic respiratory diseases and even lung cancer.
Citing American Cancer Society research results, Lung said that exposure to such particles for 20 to 30 years increases a person’s mortality rate by 6 to 17 percent.
She pointed out that other sources of the particulates include tobacco smoke, car exhaust and smoke from barbecues.
Meteorologist Peng Chi-ming (彭啟明) said as much as 30 percent of air pollution in Taiwan during autumn and winter is blown in from China.
“Sometimes, the percentage will be as high as 70 percent,” said Peng, chief executive officer and founder of WeatherRisk Explore Inc, the first private weather company in Taiwan.
Peng, also the weather anchor on DaAi TV, said that China encounters high-pressure air masses beginning in autumn that prevent air pollutants from dispersing.
The dense pollutants are then transported by the northeast monsoon to Taiwan, he said.
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