Tue, Jan 02, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Emergency center shuttered as air quality improves

By Hsiao Yu-hsin  /  Staff reporter

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday closed its emergency command center that was established following a recent spike in air pollution, while also reporting that most of the carbon emitted during the New Year’s Eve festivities in 2016 were from vehicles.

To address the most serious air pollution sweeping in from China in three years, the EPA on Sunday set up a second-level emergency command center to coordinate with different government agencies and state-run utilities to curtail polluting emissions.

With the nation’s air quality improving, it announced the close of the command center at 10am yesterday.

As of 4pm yesterday, the air quality index in most regions was green (good) or yellow (moderate pollution), but still hit red (unhealthy for all groups) at 15 monitoring stations in Kaohsiung, Pingtung County and Matsu (馬祖), the EPA said in a news release.

Meanwhile, the agency’s data showed that carbon emissions during the 2016 New Year’s Eve festivities in 10 cities and counties amounted to 1,288 tonnes, with 90 percent coming from vehicles.

Of the total carbon emissions in 2016, 830 tonnes were produced in Taipei, 316 tonnes in Tainan and 67 tonnes in Taichung, the data showed.

However, only 10 percent of the carbon emissions were caused by fireworks, while the other 90 percent were emitted by vehicles, the Department of Environmental Sanitation and Toxic Substance Management said.

For example, private vehicles in Taichung emitted 10 times more pollutants than fireworks, the department said.

To reduce polluting emissions, many local governments increased the number of shuttle buses during New Year’s, and Taipei 101 replaced part of its fireworks display with LEDs.

Fireworks can cause a short surge in local air pollution, Weatherrisk Explore Inc chief executive officer Peng Chi-ming (彭啟明) said.

For instance, the concentration of PM2.5 — fine particulate matter that measures 2.5 micrometers or less — in Taipei’s Guting (古亭) increased by 50 micrograms per cubic meter after the Taipei 101 fireworks display, Peng said.

Nonetheless, air pollution caused by fireworks only lasts for a short while, given that they are set off 100m to 200m above ground and the pollutants can be carried away by the wind, he said.

Pollution from fireworks has little direct effect on human health, but people who have allergies should pay attention and limit their outdoor activities, he said, adding that people should wash their hands and faces after returning home.

As pollution caused by vehicles makes up about one-third of the nation’s total pollution, people should endeavor to reduce air pollution in their daily lives, Peng said.

Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan

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