No Difference in Europe
Recently the highly reputable medical journal The Lancet published the findings of the largest European study ever performed on the health eff ect of fine dust. The research, involving 367,251 Europeans in 13 countries, revealed that the health effect of fine dust is much more severe than previously thought. Although Europeans are not directly affected by China’s fine dust, the problem of fine dust even in Europe is serious. The bigger problem has yet to reveal itself. Along with yellow dust and London smog, it is clear that the problem with particulates is going to worsen. The world cannot just sit around and blame China. The smog that recently covered Britain’s capital city London and Britain’s central eastern region is much worse than the general air pollution in Korea. A study by The Lancet confirms that the fine dust concentration across Europe often lies above recommended limits. The US Environmental Protection Agency also confirms that indoor air quality in the US is at least 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. The excessive level of fine dust in an indoor room is, in that respect, a huge problem responsible for a lot of damage to people’s health. In fact, the WHO lists indoor air pollution as one of the biggest dangers to health. The EU recognizes the danger of fine dust. In support thereof, Europe started a ‘Healthy Air at Home and Work’ campaign in which it drew attention to indoor air quality by offering free indoor air quality tests at home and at work.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
Warning of WHO
According to the World Health Organization, “Dust is small solid particles, conventionally taken as particles below 75μm in diameter, which settle out under their own weight but which may remain suspended for some time.” Therefore, according to the World Health Organization criteria, a high concentration of fine dust has engulfed Seoul and the entire nation for at least a week. In most areas, the PM10 levels remained at 'bad' and 'slightly bad' but some areas had levels defined as 'extreme.' The World Health Organization has detailed the situation clearly. Poor air quality leads to great discomfort and pain in people’s lives. Flights are also canceled due to poor visibility and the number of patients complaining of respiratory organ and bronchial problems have soared. An ultra-fine dust alert was issued for three days straight, and Seoul, viewing this as a 'disaster' took emergency measures by carrying out dust suction and water cleaning as well as suspense of all offi cial vehicle usage. Although the World Health Organization classifies 10 p.m. as a first level carcinogen, the source material and its toxicity have yet to be properly identified. For now, the WHO recommends governments to warn people about the risk of going outside and if it is necessary to go outside, people should wear anti-dust masks since it is known that fine dust can adversely affect health.
Sufficient Awareness, Insufiicient Prevention
Korean citizens are constantly being warned about the fine dust from China. Since last winter, not only the pollution in Korea but also the increase of vehicle smoke and fuel usage in China has caused fine dust to hang over Korea. Fine dust is extremely fatal to one’s health since the dust particles contain air contaminants that are too small and thin to be noticed. Especially, since fine dust contains seven times more germs than normal dust, it causes a variety of diseases such as asthma and lung illnesses. Even now, lots of Koreans are suff ering from respiratory and skin problems. Accordingly, most local governments are struggling to rapidly inform citizens about the concentration of fine dust in the air by strict forecasting and implementing an alert system. The Seoul government has started to run an ultrafine particle crisis management countermeasure by seeking cooperation from neighboring countries such as China and Mongolia. Lots of enterprises are producing anti-fine dust products such as face masks, cleansing foam for the skin, and home-cleaning products. However, there are still lots of people who do not wear face masks even in seriously high fine dust warnings. In fact, they are so high that visibility is greatly reduced. In other words, regardless of fine dust awareness, people do not actively practice prevention simply because it’s annoying. As there is a saying, ‘Prevention is better than a cure,’ it is important to check handy mobile applications that report the daily fine dust condition and wear a mask or wash one’s hands frequently.
A Stitch in Time Will Save Nine
The country responsible for most of Korea’s fine dust is China, but that nation too is seriously suff ering from the dust. recently, it has been reported that the concentration of fine dust in China is twentyfold the amount recommended by the World Health Organization. This amount is nearly equivalent to breathing a poisonous gas. Especially, when people began burning coal for heat in winter, the gravity of the situation worsened. reportage of an 8-year-old girl suff ering from lung cancer due to smog made people jump up and take notice. More and more people are suff ering from air pollutants and respiratory problems. Thus, recently, the central government of China has recognized the seriousness and is making an eff ort to close steel plants that use coal as fuel. However, the measure is inadequate and there is criticism that it is merely superfi cial eff ort, doing little to reduce fine dust. What’s more, one Chinese authority came under fire with an irresponsible comment. He insisted on the absence of clear evidence that China is impacting surrounding countries with fine dust. However, recent research has shown air pollution content unique to China appears in Korean’s fine dust. China should listen to its neighboring nations’ groaning, but at the same time, international policy and cooperation are urgently needed since atmospheric pollution cannot be resolved by the eff ort of a single country. In unity, there is strength.