Companies face their own dust decisions

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Companies face their own dust decisions

Korean companies are starting to react to the fine-dust crisis, trying to cope with the effects on employees - and finding ways to avoid creating their own dust.

Companies are starting to realize that doing the minimum is no longer enough. Although the Clean Air Conservation Act requires industrial sites to sprinkle water once a day to suppress dust on work sites, sprinklers are at work every hour at Hyundai Oilbank’s petrochemical plant in Seosan, South Chungcheong. Employees regularly perform maintenance and wash off construction vehicles before use.

“As oil refineries commit to more construction projects, organizations are searching for ways to reduce fine-dust concentrations on their sites,” Hyundai Oilbank spokesperson said.

Posco is enforcing an alternative-day-driving system and strengthening sprinkler activities while increasing the use of low-carbon anthracite coal. The steelmaker signed agreements with local governments to reduce fine-dust emissions and is even considering curtailing some operations when dust levels rise over a certain limit.

S-Oil has instituted a policy to increase the use of a dust-reducing agent by 10 percent at its Ulsan facility when alerts are in effect. The agent reduces nitrogen oxide concentrations of pollutants emitted from operations. Meanwhile, Samsung Heavy Industries developed a fine dust-free paint for use in its shipbuilding plants.

“Most of the air pollution substances from our yards come from paint,” the company spokesperson said. “By using more non-solvent paint, we can limit our yards’ emission of harmful air pollutants and thereby tackle the core of the problem.”

A big problem for heavy industry is a boon for other sectors. Air purifiers, steam vacuums and protective masks are the three most popular fine dust-related consumer products on the market, and sales are booming.

On the first floor of Emart supercenter in Seongsu-dong, eastern Seoul, on Monday, the entrance was crowded with air purifying plants, masks and other fine dust-related items for sale. Although there weren’t many shoppers at the time a reporter visited, the supercenter was busy with employees preparing a separate booth for dustproof masks. Emart announced earlier its air purifier sales increased almost 1,400 percent from Feb. 20 to March 3, compared to the same period last year.

“We were inundated with consumers looking for anti-dust items last year,” an Emart spokesperson said. “So we made a separate stand for fine dust-related items two weeks ago in preparation for this spring.”

CJ ENM O Shopping reported its air purifier sales increased by 45 percent from Feb. 20 to Feb. 26 compared to the week before. The television shopping channel sold 600 air purifiers within an hour of an emergency alert coming into effect Feb. 23, surpassing its original expectation by 20 percent.

“As ventilating is no longer a sufficient option for households even in fall and winter, air purifiers are now an absolute necessity for people all seasons,” said Kim Young-A, a manager at LG Electronics. Kim added the company also saw additional profits from selling electric clothes dryers and garment care appliances as housewives avoid hanging laundry out to dry and allowing dirty air into their homes.

“Anti-dust” is now a widely shared sales anthem. Lotte Department Store announced its March theme to be “Be Fresh,” hoping to attract customers with anti-dust merchandise ranging from air purifiers to cosmetics that are marketed as being anti-pollution.

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