For the past few months, the nation has been on alert from an attack of fine dust. Issued on January 22nd, the degree of air pollution exceeded the advisable level set by the World Health Organization (WHO) by more than 40 times. The problem of the fine dust began to reassert itself as a social issue in Korea. However, this is not only limited to our nation as it has affected countries all over the world that it is now urgent to settle the matter without a moment’s delay.
a) Chaos caused by the fine dust
An influx of smog from China has put Korea into a state of emergency. The problem of atmospheric pollution is at its worst in local China, but Korea is not free from the worry of the situation. Fine dust consists of tiny particles caused from the toxic gases discharged mostly from factories and cars. For our country; it is usually the dust from smog or yellow dust coming from China. Fine dust has been a chronic problem of Korea for a while, but this time the situation is much worse, with the issue of ultra-fine particles becoming very serious. More precautions have to be taken as these ultra-fine particles can permeate into the deepest parts of our respiratory system and throughout our blood vessels.
b) Difficulty in predicting fine dust
Frequent exposure to fine dust can lead to higher risks of getting various diseases such as deterioration in immunity, respiratory related problems, and eye diseases. But still, there are a lot of technical difficulties on predicting fine dust. The National Institute of Environmental Research is in charge of conducting a research on fine dust. Their main duty is to analyze the concentration distribution chart on what fine dust contains such as; ozone and carbon monoxide. They must then find out what kind of effects they might have on Korea. However, predicting the fine dust has never been accurate. Experts point out that our techniques are too far behind. In December of 2013, there was an incident with people being rambunctious towards the press for broadcasting the wrong prediction on fine dust. The National Institute of Environmental Research predicted that the concentration of fine dust would decrease, but for the first time in Korea, the issue of ultrafine particles has been announced. There are several reasons why our techniques of prediction are facing adversities. Perhaps there are not really any experts on fine dust working as weather forecaster, and the real-time information on smog from China is not being utilized properly. It seems that not enough data is being collected and so it takes more time to predict the situation. It all leads to a lack of accuracy in the forecasting model.
c) Government’s domestic policies
The Ministry of Environment is planning to solve the problems of fine dust through various measures. Starting from 2015 to 2024, they will invest 4.5 trillion won, in order to decrease the yearly means of pollution level around the Metropolitan area. To fulfill this, the Ministry of Environment is installing facilities at various places including food restaurants to prevent air pollution. The Ministry of Environment made an announcement that in order to survive; reducing the level of polluted air is a necessity. The government is also taking action by increasing the supply of eco-friendly cars and disposing of 2.5 million old cars that are producing profuse amounts of pollutants. Also there will be an approximate 25% enhancement on the effluent quality standard of sulfur oxides and nitrogenous compound. From now on, the forecast of fine dust will be announced everyday regardless of the pollution levels and starting from February, the announcements will be made twice a day. Anyone who is concerned can be provided with atmospheric information on the website, www.airkorea.co.kr through cell phone.
d) Policy discussed with neighboring countries
Collaborative research between Korea, China and Japan shows the result that approximately 30% of translate exposure and 40% of nitrogenous compound are flew in from other countries mainly from China. However, China is currently neglecting this fact and avoiding their responsibility. China has criticized Korea for broadcasting the invasion of smog in provocative and stimulating ways. However, experts made a rebuttal that these claims that China was making, shouldn’t even come into question. Even the head of the atmospheric research center claimed “We can see clearly from the satellite that the air current passing over Korea is blowing from China- “. Therefore, to reduce the level of fine dust, it is vital that we cooperate with China. The government suggested on discussing the policies for enhancing the quality of atmospheric conditions with China and Japan as smog caused from frequent changes in temperature and fog, -increases the risk of aviation accidents like the collision of helicopters. They have also made an appointment to support the improving air quality in China.
e) Ways to cope in everyday life
As there are no definite ways to control and stop the damages to our health of fine dust, the best action we can take is to keep the countermeasures of fine dust in mind so that we can minimize the damage. Firstly and most importantly, when an alert of fine dust is issued, people must act according to the behavioral know-how. It is recommended that doing outdoor activities should be restrained, but the definite answer would be to not to go outside at all. Secondly, if the level of fine dust is predicted to be high, all doors and windows must be shut to block the influx of fine dust. Thirdly, in the cases where the inevitable situation is to go outside, putting on a yellow-dust-prevention mask is required. This particular mask is recommended more than the usual mask because it has the ability to filter out minute particles of dust. Something to take heed of as well is when the masks are washed; they transform from their original form and lose some of their functions. Therefore, washed masks are not to be reused as you might have a higher risk of being infected by dust or bacteria. Fourthly, wearers of contact lenses must take precautions. They must avoid wearing contact lenses for long periods as it can aggravate the condition of their eyes causing them to feel dry. Other side effects include inflamed eyes and itchiness. Lastly, maintaining fluid intake is beneficial. Fruit can be helpful too, but when eating fruit that has not been packed, it is important to wash it thoroughly to remove any dust.
According to the Korean Meteorological Administration, the dust will settle down for a time with the effect of high pressure over the Korean Peninsula. However, as mentioned earlier, there are limitations on predicting the minute particles of dust. Therefore it is critical to awaken one’s consciousness and alertness towards this problem to be ready to take any preventative action against the problem to minimize the damages in cases of emergency. Although China holds the key and plays the central role in handling this problem, they are showing irresponsible action by shirking their responsibility. Continuous discussion on damage preventing policies, along with the cooperation of China can be the only way these problems be solved.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >