Air pollution in South Korea has reached a new high with the ultrafine dust levels described as "very bad concentrations" by the National Institute for Environmental Research.
The situation continues to worsen as the thick, black smog covering the skies in South Korea's capital Seoul and other provinces won't go away.
The recorded dust level concentration in the past week was at 136 micrograms per cubic meter, which is four times higher than the recommended health levels by the World Health Organization.
Cloud Seeding Operations
This dangerous situation has prompted a joint project between South Korean and China to curb the rising air pollution through the use of artificial rain or cloud seeding. The goal is to create artificial rain over the Yellow Sea that separates South Korea and China.
Cloud seeding involves seeding or spraying the clouds with specific chemicals to attract the formation of water droplets. The rain created through cloud seeding will wash away the polluting aerosol particles out of the sky as it falls.
"High density of ultrafine dust continued recently because weather conditions caused air over the Korean Peninsula to be stagnant and delayed diffusion of pollutants originating within the country and from abroad," said Shin Yong-Sueng of Korea's Research Institute of Public Health and Environment.
The artificial rain project is the latest effort to solve the fine dust problem in the region.
How Bad Is Fine Dust Pollution In Korea?
Starting March 1, the Korean government started emergency measures to reduce the ultrafine PM2.5 dust or particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.
The size of this ultrafine particle is smaller than a single hair strand. The PM2.5, which is categorized as a class 1 carcinogen, can enter the lungs and cause severe illness.
In Seoul, extremely fine particles in the air averaged from 162 to 237 micrograms per cubic meter, nearly five to 10 times than the recommended safe limit. The average hourly level of ultrafine dust was measured at 180 micrograms per cubic meter in Seoul, 176 in Gyeonggi Province, 155 in Incheon and 147 in Gangwon Province. Emergency measures are in place in 14 cities.
"When I breathe these days, I feel like my life expectancy is declining every day," said Jin Cho, a banker in her 40s.
Emergency measures allowed local governments to ban old diesel cars and restrict the operations of coal power plants and other facilities that produce emissions.
The South Korean government ordered the permanent shut down of coal power plants that are in operation for than 30 years. Additional public funds will also be made available to ensure that government buildings, schools and, daycares have more air purifiers to mitigate the threats of air pollution.
Coming From China
More than 70 percent of the fine dust particles clogging South Korea's atmosphere is believed to have originated from China's highly-industrialized cities. According to WHO, almost 93 percent of children under the age of 15 are breathing polluted air.