The average level of fine dust particles in Seoul and its surrounding areas fell to a record low last year thanks to the government's efforts to improve air quality, the national environment agency said Tuesday.
According to the data by the Metropolitan Air Quality Management Office (MAMO), the average concentration of particulate matter less than 10 microns (PM-10) in Seoul amounted to 47 micrograms per cubic meter. That was the lowest level since 1995 when the agency began to track the relevant data. In 1995, the level was 78 micrograms per cubic meter in Seoul.
The particulate density in Seoul fell below the desirable level recommended by the government of 50 micrograms per cubic meter for a second consecutive year in 2011, though it failed to meet the annual average level of 20 micrograms per cubic meter recommended by the World Health Organization.
Seoul's nearby city of Incheon and the surrounding Gyeonggi region also registered record lows of fine dust in 2011 with 55 micrograms per cubic meter and 57 micrograms per cubic meter, respectively, according to the agency.
"The government's measures to improve air quality, which were launched in 2005, started to produce good results," an official of the MAMO said. "We will also come up with longer-term plans to tackle air pollution arising from ultra-fine particles."
The concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in Seoul, however, exceeded the national standard level of 30 micrograms per cubic meter to reach 33 micrograms per cubic meter last year, which was up from 32 micrograms per cubic meter in 1995, the data showed.
Gyeonggi and Incheon had 30 micrograms per cubic meter of the NO2 concentration in 2011.
The higher NO2 levels, caused mainly by exhaust fumes from vehicles, were attributed to the growing number of vehicles in those areas, the MAMO official said. The capital city and its surrounding areas saw 14 percent more vehicles in 2011 than in 1995, according to government data. (Yonhap)