Fine dust has become rampant in Korea and people are becoming increasingly anxious about it. In addition, fine dust has a direct effect on our lives, causing a lot of inconveniences. The reality is that even though fine dust has emerged as a serious problem in our society recently, there has been little progress in the countermeasures. Therefore, it is necessary to appropriately address the problem regarding fine dust, and it is urgent to reduce its concentration by determining the main source.
Cause and Damage of Fine Dust
Fine dust or particulate matter (PM) refers to dust that has a diameter of less than 10 μm among particulate matter that floats in the air. Fine dust is divided into PM10, which is smaller than 10 μm in diameter, and PM2.5 that is smaller than 2.5μm, which is commonly called ultrafine dust.
This tiny particle of fine dust does not filter off from the nose, mouth, and bronchus, but enters the lung, respiratory system, and blood, thereby causing great physical damage. If the body is exposed to fine dust for a long period of time, the immune system will suffer remarkably, which could lead to various diseases, such as cold, asthma, and bronchitis, as well as cardiovascular, skin, and eye diseases. Eventually it increases
the death rate.
In addition, fine dust has caused not only the abovementioned physical damages, but also mental damage. People can no longer enjoy viewing the blue sky and they are required to wear masks almost every day. Fine dust kept people from going outside and doing outdoor activities. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2017, seven million people died earlier than expected due to fine dust. In October 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified fine dust as carcinogens of the 1st Army (Group 1), which was found to cause cancer in humans.
The source of fine dust can be distinguished as natural and artificial. Natural sources include dust, salt from seawater, and plant pollen. Artificial sources include smoke from burning fossil fuels (e.g., coal) and oil in boilers, power plants, car exhaust gases, and rough dust from construction sites. Fine dust is also divided into primary and secondary occurrences classified according to their state of matter from these natural and artificial sources. Primary generation is the occurrence
of fine dust in a solid state. Secondary generation refers to the production of fine dust (e.g., sulfate and nitrates) through chemical reactions in which substances from gas conditions (e.g., sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides) are combined with water vapor in the air and ammonia. The second generation is important because even if it only includes the Seoul metropolitan area, it accounts for approximately two-thirds of the total amount of fine dust (PM2.5).
If such causes are known to be the main causes of domestic outbreaks, the large percentage of the remaining 50% is the external factors. One such case involves high-density fine dust from the neighboring foreign countries, such as China, that flows into Korea through the West Sea due to strong west winds or north winds. As the causes of fine dust exist both within and without, efforts to reduce fine dust at the domestic level and cooperation with the neighboring countries are also important.
Both national and personal efforts to prevent fine dust are essential. First of all, in regard to the national effort, the government should prepare systematic countermeasures. Those measures that have been established so far can be found in detail on the Ministry of Environment’s website. In order to reduce fine dust, the Ministry of Environment suggested five types of fine dust management paradigms, namely, management area, management method, international cooperation, central policy, and response base. The paradigms for fine dust have been re-established more broadly and specifically, as compared to the previous paradigm.
Moreover, the Ministry of Environment aims to systematically manage fine dust by setting up major initiatives according to the field of fine dust management, as well as preparing short-term and long-term measures. Second, there are seven precautionary measures that the Ministry of Environment recommends for individuals.
Seven Precautionary Measures for Individuals
1. Outdoor activities (e.g. camping and sports activities) should be minimized.
2. If it is unavoidable to go out, wear a health mask certified by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.
3. If it is unavoidable to go out, reduce delays at roads and construction sites where the fine dust density is high, and reduce vigorous activities that may cause fine dust inhalation due to increased breathing capacity.
4. Upon arrival at your home, it is imperative that you wash your body and brush your teeth immediately.
5. When you are staying indoors, it is important to drink enough water, and eat fruits and vegetables due to their antioxidant effects.
6. It is important to have proper ventilation considering the degree of indoor and outdoor air pollutants, and use an air purifier.
7. It is important to use public transportations instead of individual cars, and avoid the incineration of wastes that can cause air pollution.
The Ministry of Environment has proposed basic measures that are easy to follow. Therefore, it is time for the government and the public to recognize the issue of fine dust and implement guidelines for preventing problems involving fine dust.
Jung Yeon-wook (ST Reporter)
Jung In-hwa (ST Reporter)