20:03 31.10.2019

Sandstorm in China causes spike in air pollution

Source: Taipei Times
Sandstorm in China causes spike in air pollution

Air quality in most parts of the nation yesterday reached dangerous levels due to a sandstorm in China, but is forecast to improve in northern and central regions today, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said.

The agency on Tuesday issued the season’s first sandstorm warning after the storm formed in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region the previous day.

The sandstorm caused the hourly concentration of PM10 — particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less — to reach 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in the region, while its effects were also felt across Taiwan from yesterday morning due to a northeasterly monsoon, it said.

As of 5am, hourly PM10 levels in Taiwan’s northernmost air quality monitoring station in New Taipei City’s Fuguijiao (富貴角) had risen to 256 micrograms per cubic meter, with levels of PM2.5 — particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less — reaching 95 micrograms per cubic meter, EPA data showed.

In northern and northwestern Taiwan, PM10 levels reached 180 to 230 micrograms per cubic meter, while PM2.5 levels reached 60 to 75 micrograms per cubic meter, the data showed.

The average 24-hour PM10 and PM2.5 levels recommended by the WHO in 2005 were 50 and 25 micrograms per cubic meter respectively.

Prolonged exposure to the pollutants might increase a person’s risk of cardiopulmonary disease, the WHO said.

As of 10am, the local governments in Taipei, Hsinchu City and Pingtung County had activated emergency centers to tackle air pollution, mainly by checking for illegal outdoor burning, reducing mobile sources of pollution and washing the streets, the EPA said.

As part of its collaborative efforts with the EPA, Taiwan Power Co (台電) reduced power generation at the oil-burning Siehe Power Plant in New Taipei City, and the coal-fired Taichung and Singda power plants in Taichung and Kaohsiung respectively, lowering the amount of daily pollution created by the nation’s power plants by 35.6 percent, it said.

While air quality in northern and central regions is expected to improve, it might remain poor in the south today and tomorrow, as amassed pollutants are difficult to disperse under local geographical and atmospheric conditions, the EPA said.

Residents of Yilan, Hualien and Taitung counties, which are to the east of the Central Mountain Range, were relatively unaffected by the spike in air pollutants, it said.

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