DPP offers policy solutions over seriousness of fine particle pollution

On the 25th of December, a summit regarding air pollutants and consequences to human health was held in Taipei. The “PM2.5 Environmental Hazard Summit” organized by Taiwan Obstetrics and Gynecology Association, Taiwan Academy of Neurology, Taiwan Ecological Society, and other professional medical groups in Taiwan was held to raise awareness among policy makers regarding the dangers of environmental air pollutants.

The organizers invited presidential and legislator candidates from all the political parties as well as government officials around the island. However, only representatives from the Democratic Progressive Party, Taiwan Solidarity Union, the Green party, and government officials from Tainan, Yunlin, Chiayi, Nantou, Pingtung and Yilan Counties were present at the summit. On behalf of DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen, Former Deputy Premier Yeh Chu-lan, Former EPA Minister Winston Dang and Spokesperson for Tsai Ing-wen Campaign Headquarters Cheng Li-chiun attended the summit. The organizers expressed during the summit their disappointment that there were no representatives from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) People’s First Party, and New Party to attend to the issue of environmental hazard.

Fine particle pollution, also known as PM 2.5 describes particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller. According to US EPA, it can be emitted directly or formed secondarily in the atmosphere. Health studies have shown a significant association between exposure to fine particles and premature death from heart or lung disease.

In the remarks made by Former EPA Minister Dang, who worked in the US EPA for fifteen years, he mentioned the importance to restructure and reshape our industries and move away from high-pollution, high-energy consumption industries in order to lower PM 2.5 emission. Moreover, he recommends encouraging more widespread use of public transportation to reduce scooters’ usage, which is one of the main causes of the high PM2.5 levels in Taiwan.

Mr. Dang also urged to invest more in green industries and increase usage of renewable energy by 1% annually. He mentioned that it is important for countries to work together to alleviate environmental damages from global warming and sandstorms from China in order to effectively control the level of PM 2.5.
More importantly, as Mr. Dang emphasized, the government should publicize the hazard of fine particle pollution and establish stricter regulations which will in time prolong life expectancy and lower healthcare cost. Lastly, risk communication with the public is perhaps one of the crucial aspects to focus on since the public is the direct victim from any forms of environmental hazard.

Mr. Dang further proposed certain specific measures to be achieved in 10 years:
- For sensitive groups within designated indoor areas (nurseries, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc) apply the strictest regulations provided by the WHO: allow a daily average of 25 micrometers or lower per cubic meter (area), and an annual average of 10 micrometers per cubic meter.
- For designated public indoor areas (subways, shopping malls, etc.) and outdoor areas, regulations should be in accordance with that of the US and Japan: allow a daily average of 35 micrometers or lower per cubic meter, annual average of 15 micrometers per cubic meter.

The reason to hold this summit, as explained by the organizers, was for presidential candidates to explain concrete policies related to sustainable economy and future industries and to have the EPA propose air quality standards and relevant regulations as soon as possible. This will lead to lower social and environmental cost simultaneously stimulating growth in the green industries.

It is absolutely vital for Taiwan to improve its current air pollution problem, the conference organizers expressed. According to Nownews reports, cancer has been the leading cause of death in Taiwan for three decades, with lung cancer being the most common type (approximately 7,000 people die from lung cancer each year). There have also been cases of 17 year olds being diagnosed with lung cancer. Notwithstanding cigarettes, the medical community believes there are additional causes to lung cancer in Taiwan due to its small land area.