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|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Good|| 21 US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Seongnam air currently meets the WHO annual air quality guideline value
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|Tuesday, Sep 19|
Moderate 65 AQI US
|Wednesday, Sep 20|
Good 24 AQI US
|Thursday, Sep 21|
Good 18 AQI US
Good 21 AQI US
|Saturday, Sep 23|
Moderate 64 AQI US
|Sunday, Sep 24|
Moderate 57 AQI US
|Monday, Sep 25|
Moderate 56 AQI US
|Tuesday, Sep 26|
Moderate 57 AQI US
|Wednesday, Sep 27|
Moderate 75 AQI US
|Thursday, Sep 28|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 128 AQI US
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Seongnam is a city located in South Korea’s Gyeonggi province, being the second largest city in the region, coming in behind Suwon. As well as this, it is also the 10th largest city in the country, with approximately 1 million inhabitants calling it home. It was the first planned city built in Korea, used to establish itself as an industrial hub that helped to catalyze South Korea’s rapid urbanization and industrialization, being a city that is well connected to the rest of the country via a well connected network of roads, some leading to Seoul and other major destinations.
In its past it had an economy that relied heavily on the manufacturing of products such as electronic goods, textiles as well as petrochemical materials. Today although things have changed significantly since its conception in the 70’s, there still remains enough anthropogenic activity coupled with industrial pollution that sees the city with some fairly elevated levels of pollution present.
In 2019, Seongnam came in with a PM2.5 reading of 23.8 μg/m³ as its yearly average, placing it in the mid-range of the ‘moderate’ pollution bracket, one that requires a reading of anywhere between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such. This reading, whilst not overtly catastrophic in nature, is still quite high and able to cause issues for a large majority of the population. It also placed Seongnam in 677th place out of all cities ranked worldwide, as well as 71st place out of all cities ranked in Korea. This is indicative that there are a number of air pollution related issues going on in Seongnam.
Throughout the whole of South Korea, air pollution has become increasingly prominent as a threat to daily life as well as the continued wellbeing of younger generations, and the life expectancy of the older generation, with these two groups being the most vulnerable, along with those who have compromised immune systems or preexisting conditions.
Amongst some of the main causes, there are localized ones as well as trans-continental ones, with a contentious topic of dust, fine particles and pollution being blown over from China, and to a lesser extent Mongolia, causing elevated levels of pollution in Seongnam and indeed the whole of Korea, that have grave health consequences for the population. Besides meteorological and geographic reasons, localized factors such as the overuse of vehicles also counts for a massive amount of the elevated pollution levels throughout the various cities.
Vehicles, particularly heavy duty ones such as trucks and lorries that run on diesel fuels can cause vast amounts of pollutive output. Other relevant causes of pollution would include ones such as industrial haze and fumes, with coal powered factories also releasing a large amount of pollution and PM2.5. heating and air conditioning also contribute, with the seasonal changes in Seongnam correlating with pollution levels due to energy expenditure in providing heat to homes and businesses.
As mentioned before, Seongnam and indeed the rest of South Korea has contentious issues regarding the flow of dust, sand and pollution coming from China, with strong western winds coinciding with the sandstorms occurring in both Mongolia and China, able to blow the particles great distances over to the Korean peninsula and affect cities such as Seongnam. These issues get worse during the colder months, due to slow local winds failing to remove build up of pollution, as well as a massive increase in local (coal powered) energy consumption for heating.
Observing the data, it is apparent that in Seongnam, the air quality starts to take a turn for the worst in November, with Octobers reading of 14.3 μg/m³ jumping up to 20 μg/m³ in November, and then to a further 28.8 μg/m³ in December.
This continues into the early months of next year (although the data from 2019 is being used here for consistencies sake), with further elevations in pollution and some of the highest readings of the year. January through to March showed the worst numbers, with PM2.5 readings of 38.4 μg/m³, 34.6 μg/m³ and 43.6 μg/m³ respectively, making March the most polluted month of the year by a large margin, nearly 4 times the amount than the cleanest month of the year.
Following directly on from the previous question, the months that came in with the worst readings of pollution began in November and continued on until March of the following year. March’s reading of 43.6 μg/m³ was followed by a drastic drop down to 16.8 μg/m³ in April, and despite a sudden jump back up to 25.4 μg/m³ in May, the levels continued to drop, making the months of April through to October the cleanest period of time in Seongnam.
August through to October is when the best levels of air quality were witnessed, with readings of 15.6 μg/m³, 11.7 μg/m³ and 14.3 μg/m³ respectively, making September the cleanest month by a significant amount, and also making it the only month of the year to hit the ‘good’ ratings bracket, which requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 10 to 12 μg/m³.
This is a fine margin of entry and only 1.7 units away from hitting the World Health Organizations (WHO's) target goal for the best quality of air, which is 10 μg/m³ and under, with the closest to 0 of course being the most optimal.
With the prominent topic of pollution being blown in from the west, this would include pollutants such as finely ground particles of sand, gravel dust and silica, many of which can cause a plethora of respiratory issues, as well as silica dust having known carcinogenic properties. The winds blown in would also contain pollutants put out by coal powered factories, seen in heavy use in China, although it is still a prevalent factor in South Korea itself, and Seongnam.
Pollutants released from factories and vehicle emissions would include nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), with nitrogen dioxide being particularly insidious and prevalent, able to gather in large quantities over areas of high traffic and cause irritation and permanent damage to the lungs of people exposed to it.
Further pollutants would be black carbon and volatile organic compounds (VOC's), both of which are produced from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and organic matter, and as such would find their release from both coal powered factories, diesel based cars as well as heavy machinery used in both factories as well as construction sites. Some examples of VOC's would include benzene, xylene, toluene and formaldehyde.