Dirty air ‘harms infants, children’

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Apr 03, 2013 - Page 3

Changhua Christian Hospital gynecologist and Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance founder Yeh Guang-peng (葉光芃) yesterday said that Taiwan’s regulations on controlling PM10 — fine particles in the air of up to 10 micrometers — are too loose and will cause the most harm to pregnant women, infants and children.

At a press conference held at the Legislative Yuan by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), attended by several doctors, a few legislators and Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) officials, Tien said while the Department of Health has set an annual average “tolerable level of PM10” of 65 micrograms per cubic meter and a 24-hour average of 125 micrograms per cubic meter, the WHO guideline recommends stricter levels, set at 20 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual average and 50 micrograms per cubic meter for the 24-hour average.

Showing research results from the US and Switzerland about the effects of air pollution on pregnant women and children, Yeh said air pollution during pregnancy affects lung function in newborns and reduces growth of the lungs during childhood, adding that “once damage is done to the lungs, it is irreversible.”

“Air pollution also accelerates lung-function loss and causes lungs to age faster in adults who are often exposed to air pollution” he added.

Yeh said the doctors and civic groups have received three lists from the WHO showing the rankings of several countries according to their PM10 annual average in 2008, 2009, and between 2010 and last year. These statistics clearly showed that Taiwan’s PM10 air pollution was much worse than in several neighbouring countries and areas, such as Japan and Singapore, and about twice the PM10 level in Switzerland.

They urged the EPA to amend and enforce stricter regulations on PM10 to protect Taiwanese, especially pregnant women and children, against lung disease and allow them to feel safe breathing outside every day.

Air Quality Protection and Noise Control Bureau Director-General Hsieh Yen-rui (謝燕儒) said the air quality in Taiwan has actually improved through the years, dropping from a PM10 annual mean of 62.8 micrograms per cubic meter in 2005 to 50.2 micrograms per cubic meter last year, but the administration would continue to reflect on its regulations and strive to improve air quality.