Tue, Apr 05, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Legislators propose adding PM2.5 to disaster act

Staff writer, with CNA

Lawmakers have proposed writing legislation on concentrations of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) into the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act (災害防救法) in an effort to better control air pollution.

The proposal, initiated by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) and supported by 16 other lawmakers, states that hazards caused by the high concentrations of PM2.5 should be added to the definition of “disaster” in the act and that the regulating authority should be the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).

Currently, “disaster” is defined as hazards caused by any of the following: natural disasters, including storms, floods, earthquakes, droughts, ice and mudslides; and disasters such as fires, explosions of gas and fuel pipelines, power transmission line failures, mining disasters, air crashes, shipwrecks, traffic accidents, forest fires and toxic chemical materials.

Under the proposed amendment, PM2.5 would be added to the list of non-natural disasters.

Many scientific studies have confirmed that high concentrations of PM2.5 could lead to early death, bronchitis, asthma, heart disease, lung cancers and other illnesses, the proposed amendment says.

Long-term of short-term exposure to air pollutants increases the risk of respiratory disease and death, so hazards caused by PM2.5 pollution should be listed among the disasters in the act, it says.

Under the 10-tier PM2.5 index, with level 10 — 71 micrograms per cubic meter or above — being the highest, measurements above level 7 — 54 to 58 micrograms per cubic meter — are deemed severe enough to cause tangible discomfort and health problems.

The proposed amendment has been sent to the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee for consideration.

On Sunday, data from the air quality monitoring network operated by the EPA showed that concentrations of PM2.5 were at “high” and “very high” levels in western regions, with PM2.5 indices there reaching between level 7 and level 10.

High PM2.5 levels in such areas were due to temperate weather conditions, leading to the accumulation of pollutants, while poor air quality in Kinmen and Matsu was caused by pollutants from China, the EPA said.

The EPA advised residents in the affected areas, especially those with allergies, to avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical activity.

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