Ulsan Under Constant Exposure To Toxic Dust

Researchers in South Korea have found that Ulsan is chronically exposed to fine dust containing toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

AsianScientist (Jul. 24, 2018) – In a study published in Environmental Pollution, a research group in South Korea has found that Ulsan city is affected by toxic substances contained in fine dust particles all year long.

Fine dust particles in the air can be a reservoir for toxins and harmful microorganisms. Because these dust particles are easily carried on the wind, they can travel over long distances and cause health problems across geographical boundaries.

In the present study, researchers led by Professor Choi Sung-Deuk at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea measured the concentrations of the atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Ulsan. PAHs are among the most toxic chemical pollutants, contained in fine dust.

They found that the concentration of PAHs in the gaseous and particulate phases are higher in winter (January and February) and spring (March to May), and this is largely due to the ultra-fine dust created in China.

However, when the total fine dust concentration decreased in summer (June to July), PAH concentrations did not decrease as much in mass. The researchers suggest that this might be due to seasonal winds transporting PAHs from Ulsan’s coastal shipbuilding industrial areas into the city.

Choi noted that South Korea’s current analysis methods for measuring the concentrations of fine dust are misguided, highlighting that they place more emphasis on the total concentration of fine dust in analyses of adverse health effects. Low concentrations of fine dust could contain a higher level of toxic substances, while high concentrations of fine dust could be made up of relatively clean sand particles.

“Even if the total fine dust mass is low, the risk to human health depends on the presence of certain toxic substances in it,” said Choi. “Therefore, further studies on the component analysis of fine dust are necessary and this time, we have dealt with PAHs.”

“This study shows that Ulsan is affected by toxic substances contained in fine dust particles throughout the year,” Choi added. “The amount of industrial sector-based volatile organic compounds, which are later converted into fine particulates in the atmosphere via photochemical reactions, is not negligible. Therefore, instead of blaming pollutants wafting in from China and nearby metropolitan areas, we need to take responsibility for local pollution.”

The article can be found at: Nguyen et al. (2018) Seasonal Variation, Phase Distribution, and Source Identification of Atmospheric Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons at a Semi-rural Site in Ulsan, South Korea.


Source: Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
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