Now Ozone Pollution Is DangerousAccording to the Ministry of the Environment, for this year alone there have been 23 separate times when air quality alerts have been issued around the nation. This is startling considering that a total of 14 warnings were given last year. And, for Seoul, nine air quality warnings have been given since last June.
The environment ministry stated that air pollution standards (measured for an eight-hour period with 0.06ppm of ozone and particulate as considered 'acceptable') were exceeded in 91 places in May. In the coastal steel-producing city of Pohang, environment standards reached dangerous levels a disturbing 22 times with residents being exposed to harmful air quality for almost the entire month of May.
Pollution levels in Suwon, a city just south of the capital, had reached 0.148 ppm per hour on four different occasions. But, also Seoul and parts of Kangwon Province saw air quality levels plummet three times to unaccpetable levels in the month of May.
Even though the heavy concentration of factories and iron-steel smelters Pohang are probably responsible for the majority of its air quality problems, the Ministry said that it would be conducting further research wanting to take into account weather data as well as nearby factories to accurately pinpoint causes of pollution.
Air quality is jeapordized when nitrogen-oxide from cars and hydrocarbons present in the air react with sunlight producing ozone, which in larger amounts, is hazardous to humans causing repiratory problems with asthmatics needing to be hospitalized. This type of ozone build-up is usually serious in cities with too many cars and traffic jams.
According to Cheon Sang-il's doctoral thesis, a graduate of Seoul National University, asthmatics and patients over the age of 65 have more trouble breathing when air quality alerts are issued with some even experiencing cardiac trouble. After City officials issued warnings, hospitals across the city saw a 27.4 percent increase in people complaining of respiratory problems upto four days later.
The medical cost paid out to handle health problems caused by poor air qaulity is estimated to top 8.2 million won (about $ 7.4 million) every year. With the rainy season expected to finish earlier than usual this year and the 'air-scrubbing' effect rainfall has on air quality, the Ministry expects air pollution to be serious for the months of July and August when harmful air quality levels are usually at their worst.
If air quality warning are issued, people should try to use cars less with the elderly and the young as well as people suffering from asthma cautioned to stay indoors.
by Kang Chan-soo