Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
A student wearing a mask uses his mobile phone during a polluted day in Seoul, South Korea, March 5, 2019. VOA

Record high ultra-fine dust levels in South Korea this week are creating urgency for political leaders to take action towards ensuring more breathable air.

Levels of particulates smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM 2.5) in diameter hit new records on Monday and Tuesday, soaring in excess of what international health officials deem acceptable.


The World Health Organization recommends keeping PM 2.5 pollutants below 25 micrograms per cubic meter. Seoul’s concentration of fine dust measured 111 micrograms Wednesday, with even higher levels in outlying regions.


Apartment complexes are seen shrouded by fine dust during a polluted day in Seoul, South Korea, March 6, 2019. VOA

The capital region’s iconic mountain and skyscraper cityscape has been a dim and hazy silhouette for much of the week, and mobile phones across the country have been vibrating with warnings from the government that citizens should limit outdoor activities. Anti-pollution masks are a frequent sight on convenience store shelves and on commuter faces.

The pollution levels have triggered local emergency measures around the country under which coal plants and other pollution emitting facilities can be restricted. Older diesel cars can also be banned from roads, and school and work hours can be curtailed at the discretion of local officials.

A high concentration of automobiles is one factor cited in South Korea’s pollution problem, something the government is trying to mitigate with a major push toward hydrogen and fuel cell vehicle development. South Korea has also pivoted away from nuclear energy in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, reverting to coal for energy needs. However, experts say as much as 70 percent of the dust blows over from China.

Shing Yong-seung, with the Research Institute of Public Health and Environment in Seoul, said fireworks displays in China contributed in part to the recent spike in pollutants over the Korean peninsula.


Fireworks light up the sky over Xiangzhou port of Zhuhai during a celebration to mark 40 years since Zhuhai became a city, in Guangdong province, China, March 5, 2019. VOA

“On February 19, we were able to confirm that chemicals used in Chinese fireworks increased up to 11 times higher than the previous concentration,” Shin told reporters in a Wednesday briefing. “This means that China’s pollutants have also affected the country, especially Seoul,” he said.

President Moon Jae-in instructed government officials Wednesday to discuss ways for South Korea and China to cooperate, including collaboration on artificial rainfall, or cloud-seeding to rinse some of the particles out of the air. “Since China is more advanced in artificial rainfall technology,” spokesman Kim Eui-Kyeom told reporters,“the president instructed the Environment Ministry to push forward on artificial rainfall projects with China in the West Sea.”

ALSO READ: South-East Asian Women on Women’s Day Call for Equal Opportunities, Lament War and Repression

Lawmakers from South Korea’s three largest parties say they’ll work together to pass new measures next week aimed at combating severe fine dust. Many South Koreans complain that short term domestic steps will not sufficiently clear the air, saying only more proactive cooperation with China is likely to have any chance of being effective in the long run. (VOA)


Popular

Unsplash

When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades.

The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.

Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.

The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.

ALSO READ: Can You Drink Coffee While You're Pregnant?

"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.

"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.

Keep Reading Show less
Unsplash

It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.

The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.

Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.

"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.

ALSO READ: Emoji- A Choice for Interracial Couple

Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.

"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Wikimedia Commons

Jeff Bezos at the ENCORE awards.

Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.

Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.

ALSO READ: Jeff Bezos Used To Review Products On Amazon

After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin

Keep reading... Show less