Ultrafine Particle Pollution Reaches Dangerous Levels

      April 08, 2013 10:30

      The concentration of ultrafine particles in the air has reached levels detrimental to human health in recent years, with Seoul more than double those in other major cities around the world.

      Ultrafine particles are 2.5 ㎍ or less in diameter and can cause cardiovascular or lung disease after easily penetrating the body's defenses.

      The Environment Ministry said Sunday that in six out of 11 cities the annual average of harmful particles exceeded the acceptable level under new regulations that will take effect in 2015. In Seoul, the concentration hovered between 25.2 and 29.3 ㎍ from 2010-12, much higher than New York (13.9 ㎍), Los Angeles (17.9 ㎍), London (16 ㎍) and Paris (15 ㎍).

      Last year, the number of days when the concentration of ultrafine particles was found to exceed the acceptable level was 31, some 10 percent of the total 332 days that weather authorities recorded it.

      A ministry official attributed the higher concentration to pollutants carried from China and emissions from factories and vehicles here. "As for sulfur and nitrogen oxide, 30 to 40 percent of the pollutants are estimated to have originated from China," he added.

      Given the increasing level of pollutants, the ministry plans to introduce a fine particle warning system for Seoul and the metropolitan area in the first half of this year, and the system will be expanded to ultrafine particles next year.

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