According to a collaborative research project funded by the National Science Council, up to 12.3 percent of people (about 1.86 million) in Greater Taipei live on the first or second floor and within 5m of a major road, which is considered a “high traffic-related air pollutant exposure population.”
Project leader Lung Chih-chun (龍世俊), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Research Center for Environmental Changes and an associate professor at National Taiwan University, said some types of in particulate matter, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, can affect the heart and lungs, causing serious health effects as they pass through the nose or throat and enter the lungs.
She said the major source of particulate matter air pollutants in cities is exhaust emissions and that the average number of motor vehicles per square kilometer in Taiwan is relatively high, at about 614 vehicles per square kilometer, compared with 232 vehicles per square kilometer in Japan and 26 in the US.
Lung said the findings of a German study led by Barbara Hoffmann in 2007 showed that coronary artery calcification is 63 percent higher for people living within 50m of a major road than for people who live more than 200m away.
The team applied an innovative method — three-dimensional digital geography — to estimate the traffic-related air pollutant exposure of the population of Greater Taipei and its demographic characteristics.
Lung said they discovered that up to 98 percent of Greater Taipei residents are living within 50m of a major road, with downtown districts having a higher number of people living on the first or second floor and within 5m of a major road.
While the government is promoting electric vehicles to reduce exhaust emissions, people who live near major roads can take measures to lessen their exposure to air pollutants by installing sealed windows or air purifiers, Lung said, adding that further research would incorporate traffic flow data to better understand the health risks.