Seoul to invest big to reduce ultrafine dust

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Monday it will equip heavy vehicles with dust reduction devices and introduce a warning system against ultrafine particles as part of efforts to clean up the air and promote public health.

As nano-sized matter, smaller than 2.5 micrometers, ultrafine particles originate from different natural and man-made sources such as fires and diesel exhaust. As the particulate matter penetrates deep within the lungs, it is believed to cause adverse health effects such as respiratory problems and cardiovascular disorders.

Seoul saw a high density of the particles with its annual average coming to 23 micrograms per cubic meter last year, far higher than that in the world's major metropolis such as New York, London, Tokyo and Paris, all of which have some 15 micrograms per cubic meter, according to government data.

Aimed to bring the figure to the level seen in the advanced cities by 2024, the Seoul government decided to invest 157.1 billion won (US$139.6 million) to push for 28 anti-pollutant projects, according to its officials.

The city will buy a set of equipment to measure and analyze the pollutants more precisely and introduce a warning system starting in October to provide citizens with relevant information in real time and to help them prepare for the pollutant.

By next year, some 1,150 heavy vehicles such as trucks and construction equipment will have a device that helps reduce its emissions and nitrogen oxides, the officials said.

The government also plans to set up an environment friendly heating system in some 800 public rental houses and to support part of the expenses for 20,000 households next year when they change their boiler to a low-emission one.

"Based upon the results of these pilot projects, we will come up with more ways to lower the density of ultrafine particles," said Kim Yong-bok, a city official in charge of policies on climate change.

"Nearly 49 percent of the particulate matter here comes from East Asian countries, including China. So we will also boost cooperation with neighboring countries in managing the air quality," Kim added.

Seoul has been pushing to improve air quality in recent years, adopting a set of measures such as cleaning more roads, tightening regulations on air pollution at construction sites and introducing environment friendly vehicles, including buses with a compressed natural gas and electric hybrid drive system to the capital city.

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