South Korea, China and Japan have agreed to step up efforts to reduce ultrafine pollutants as part of their cooperation on environmental issues.
The announcement came after a two-day meeting of the three countries’ environment ministers in Daegu, Korea, where they discussed a range of environmental threats.
It was the first ministerial meeting held by the three countries to come up with solutions to protect public health.
“The ministers shared the concerns of the risks posed by air pollution on human health and the environment, and underscored the compelling need to tackle air pollution,” South Korean Environment Minister Yoon Seong-kyu said in a briefing on the meeting.
They also selected nine imminent environmental issues to tackle together from 2015 to 2019, including air quality improvement, biodiversity, climate change, water control and marine environment.
To pledge further cooperation, China’s Environmental Protection Vice Minister Li Ganjie, Japan’s Environment Minister Ishihara Nobuteru and the South Korean minister also signed a joint communique.
The three countries agreed to hold regular dialogues to share information and foster partnership on tackling air pollution in the region, with the results to be reported at working-level conferences for the Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting.
The concentration rate of airborne dust particulates ― particularly those smaller than 10 micrograms or 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter ― has recently reached dangerous levels in the region.
High levels of the particles can cause respiratory and other health problems. In January, Beijing’s concentrations of PM2.5 hit 993 micrograms per cubic meter, almost 40 times higher than the daily safe level of 25 micrograms recommended by the World Health Organization.
Amid mounting criticism from the international community over the acrid smog, the three countries agreed in November 2013 to start joint research on ultrafine pollutants, including lead, cadmium and arsenic.
South Korea has also launched a fine dust alert system to inform citizens about health risks caused by air pollution.
The next TEMM meeting will be held in China. The meeting organizers said the meeting’s exact date and location will be announced later.
By Suk Gee-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)