The nation’s air quality is forecast to deteriorate tomorrow with today’s arrival of this fall’s first offshore air pollutants, according to WeatherRisk Explore Inc.
The private weather service yesterday released air quality and climate forecasts for fall and winter.
WeatherRisk Explore manager Peng Chi-ming (彭啟明) said offshore air pollutants — particularly smog-forming pollutants — are often blown over Taiwan by northeast monsoon winds, which blow regularly in fall and winter.
Peng said the first wave of offshore pollutants is forecast for today and tomorrow.
The company said that statistics from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) show the density of fine particulate matter under 25 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) is generally high between January and April and again between October and December.
During fall and winter the northeastern monsoon winds are strengthened by the high pressure systems from China, blowing pollutants from Chinese coastal areas over Taiwan, the company said.
As there is less rainfall at this time of year, the pollutants are not washed away and cause the overall air quality to deteriorate, the company said.
Except in Yilan and Hualien counties — which have a lower density of PM2.5 — the company said that the small pollutants density increases as one moves from north to south along the west coast.
The highest density of PM2.5 has been found in Kaohsiung, Pintung, Tainan, Chiayi and Yunlin, which could reach the average of 50 micrograms (mcg) per cubic meter within 24 hours, the company said.
That number exceeds the standards set by the government and by the WHO, which are 35mcg and 20mcg per cubic meter, respectively, the company said.
PM2.5 is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals and soil or dust particles, and can be emitted from power plants, factories and automobiles.
When inhaled, PM2.5 can travel deep into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs and scientific studies have shown PM2.5 exposure can cause negative short-term health effects as well as more severe health damage associated with long-term exposure.
A dermatologist yesterday said that the poor air quality might cause harm not only to the respiratory tract, but also to skin.
Dermatologist Chao Chao-ming (趙昭明) said that PM2.5 can penetrate clothing and facial masks, causing skin inflammation and harm the skin’s sebum membrane and moisture condition, which might age skin faster.
The sebum membrane is a layer of membrane formed by the secretions of the sebaceous gland and sweat gland, and serves as a natural protection, he said, adding that the sebum membrane usually at a pH level between 4.5 and 6.5 (slightly acidic), and can help maintain the skin’s moisture balance, as well as help block environmental stimuli.
Chao said as the weather gets colder, sebaceous gland secretion decrease by about 10 percent with every 1°C drop in temperature, and PM2.5 can further dry the skin.
Chao said washing the face and body with cleansers that are at a pH level between 4.5 and 6.5 can reduce harm to the skin, and that avoiding cleansers that contain chemical preservatives, such as paraben or methylchloroisothiazolinone and mineral oils, can reduce the risk of skin allergies and acne.
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