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Taiwan's air 45th most polluted in world, 3rd in East Asia

03/21/2024 05:47 PM
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Smoggy Taipei. CNA photo March 17, 2024
Smoggy Taipei. CNA photo March 17, 2024

Taipei, March 21 (CNA) Taiwan had the 45th highest average annual PM2.5 concentration among the world's 134 countries, territories, and regions in 2023, according to the 2023 World Air Quality Report published by IQAir Tuesday.

Recording an average concentration of 20.2 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³), Taiwan performed better than China (32.5 µg/m³) and Mongolia (22.5 µg/m³) but lagged behind South Korea (19.2 µg/m³), Hong Kong (15.6 µg/m³) and Japan (9.6 µg/m³) in East Asia, according to report's Swiss publisher.

The most polluted countries were Bangladesh (79.9 µg/m³), Pakistan (73.7 µg/m³), India (54.4 µg/m³), Tajikistan (49 µg/m³) and Burkina Faso (46.6 µg/m³). Meanwhile, only Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, Mauritius, and New Zealand have met the World Health Organization's annual guideline of 5 µg/m³ or less, the report said.

Graphic: IQAir
Graphic: IQAir

In terms of cities and locations, the highest average annual concentration of PM2.5 in Taiwan lies in Changhua County (24.5 µg/m³), Tainan (20.9 µg/m³), and Pingtong County's Donggang Township (20.7 µg/m³), according to IQAir.

Taiwan's data was collected from 48 Ministry of Environment (MOENV) air quality stations, and five individual contributors providing observations from six stations, according to IQAir's website.

PM2.5 is particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller. Such particulate matter is a key component of air pollution and a known cause of many health issues, including cardiovascular and neurological diseases, said the report.

Chang Shun-chin (張順欽), head of the MOENV's Department of Atmospheric Environment, told CNA Wednesday that the air quality in different parts of Taiwan results from complex factors such as geology and seasonal winds.

For example, the flying dust in the Jhuoshuei River region plays an important role in the local air quality. Pollutants often drift to northern Taiwan with the seasonal northeasterly winds in winter, while in April and May, ozone pollution is higher in the north due to the southerly winds.

The ministry was currently conducting the second-phase Air Pollution Control Action Plan and ramping up efforts to reduce air pollution in central and southern Taiwan, added Chang.

Major pollution sources including the Taichung Power Plant, various power plants and steel factories, have been required to redouble efforts to reduce emissions, Chang said.

Local governments have also been required to provide related plans according to each region's situation, Chang added.

The ministry said that IQAir was a private company that manufactures air purifying products, with much of its data from private contributors and unclear locations, which may not reflect reality.

For example, the report said that Taiwan's average PM2.5 concentration in 2022 was 13.4 µg/m³ and rose 50 percent to 20.2 µg/m³. However, according to the ministry's data, the average concentration was 12.4 µg/m³ in 2022 and only rose 11.3 percent to 13.7 µg/m³, the ministry said.

Changhua County Environmental Protection Bureau also issued a statement Thursday, echoing similar sentiments.

According to the MOENV's data, the county's average annual PM2.5 concentration was 16.4 µg/m³, not 24.5 µg/m³ as the report showed, the bureau argued.

Moreover, the county's air quality has been improving, with the improvement between 2018 and 2023 being top five in the country, it added.

The 2023 World Air Quality Report was IQAir's sixth annual report. More than 30,000 air quality monitoring stations across 7,812 locations across the globe were collected and subsequently analyzed by IQAir's air quality scientists, according to IQAir.

(By Chang Hsiung-feng, Wu Che-hao and Wu Kuan-hsien)

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