Average nationwide PM2.5 density only decreased 0.5 micrometers per cubic meter last year compared with 2013, while the average annual density of PM2.5 over Chiayi last year bordered the nation’s daily average of PM2.5 density at 35 micrometers per cubic meter, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday said in a report submitted to the Legislative Yuan.
PM2.5 is an indicator of airborne particles measuring 2.5 micrometers or less — small enough to penetrate the bronchioles or alveoli.
Central areas were hit by high PM2.5 levels on Monday as weather fronts dispersed airborne pollutants, with Yunlin County’s Puli (埔里), Taisi (台西), Mailiao (麥寮) and Lunbei (崙背) townships reaching “purple” — on the EPA’s air quality index ranking. New Taipei City’s Sijhih District (汐止) and Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) reached “maroon” — while Taoyuan neared the “purple” levels.
The EPA separates PM2.5 into 10 levels, with maroon being level 9, between 65 to 70 micrometers per cubic meter of PM2.5, and purple with PM2.5 levels above 71 micrometers per cubic meter.
According to the agency’s report, average density of PM2.5 has gone up in Taipei, Hsinchu County, Yunlin County, Chiayi, Chiayi County, Hualien County and Taitung County.
With a small number of factories in the Chiayi area, the increased air pollution over the city could be caused by vehicular emissions or nearby industrial zones, Bureau of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control Director-General Chen Hsien-heng (陳咸亨) said.
Research data shows that about 27 percent of total PM2.5 over Taiwan comes from China, 25 percent comes from factory emissions and more than 36 percent comes from vehicles, Chen said, adding that the remaining 12 percent is naturally generated.
There are multiple sources for PM2.5 pollution and we can only determine the prime source of emission by the most cautious chemical, physical analyses and material balance calculations, EPA Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) said.
The agency and the Ministry of Health and Welfare are embarking on a joint project hoping to locally analyze the toxicity, health risks, source and contents of PM2.5 matter over the next four years, Wei said, adding that the two agencies hope to establish an air pollution index including possible health risks in 2017.
Meanwhile, the EPA said it is considering a new way to crack down on the pollution caused by the nation’s millions of motorcycles — by lowering the fines for violations.
It said only 66 percent of Taiwan’s motorcycles — mostly scooters — went through annual emission tests last year.
That means more than 4.7 million motorcycles were not inspected.
Owners who fail to get their machines inspected may be fined NT$2,000. However, if motorcycles are stopped and fail a random roadside test, their owners face a fine of between NT$1,500 and NT$6,000.
The problem is that some local governments consider the fines “too high to impose,” the EPA said.
Some cities and counties want the fine lowered to NT$500, Chen said, though he did not name the authorities in question.
The EPA said it would consult with local authorities and other government agencies within the next month on a proposal to encourage local governments to issue a greater quantity of fines by lowering the amount.
Additional reporting by CNA
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