Toward a ‘masked’ republic?Lee Ki-young, a professor at the Graduate School of Public Health at Seoul National University, claimed in a seminar last week that wearing a mask does not provide any protection when the air is heavy with extremely fine dust particles. He argued that ultrafine particles can easily seep into masks and indoors. When going outside, he advised wearing industrial-strength face masks.
Sooner or later, experts will advise that we wear a gas mask if we dare go outside. We have nowhere to keep ourselves entirely safe from fine dust.
We scramble to find our own protection since there appears to be no solution to the problem. The National Police Agency recently purchased 4,980 packs of the latest dust-proof masks to supply to traffic police. Education authorities across the nation ordered schools to refrain from outdoor activities and have students wear masks on polluted days.
Wearing masks daily could soon become commonplace. We ask what the government has done to bring such harsh conditions to the people. Authorities point to a list of domestic culprits — coal-fueled power stations, cars, home heating, factory emissions, and even grilled mackerel.
China also contributes largely to the pollution. If they know the causes, authorities have to come up with the right set of solutions. Seoul earned the temporary humiliation of having the world’s second worst air quality after New Delhi and being more polluted than the notorious Beijing air. Where has the budget to combat pollution gone to?
Having good air is a basic right of every human being. Particles are the deadliest pollutant that can directly impair the lung and cause cancer. The state must ensure that people are healthy in order to keep the country safe and economy strong. The next president must address fine dust as a killer that must be eliminated no matter what.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 25, Page 34