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At least 1 in 6 dies early from fine dust: study

About 1 in 6 Koreans over age 30 have their lives cut short by air pollution, a study found Monday, raising concerns over public health.

About 15,000 adults aged 30 or older in Seoul City and Gyeonggi Province die earlier than they otherwise would each year because of air pollution, especially fine dust, the report said. This accounts for about 16 percent of the yearly death toll of those aged over 30 in the two regions.

The report was jointly authored by occupational and environmental medicine professor Leem Jong-han at Inha University and environmental engineering professor Kim Soon-tae at Ajou University.

The study was conducted to look into the effects of fine dust on the death rates in the regions.

Fine dust or particulate matter, or PM-10, refers to airborne particles 10 micrometers or less in diameter. It is known to cause respiratory problems and other diseases, especially in toddlers and the elderly.

The study showed that fine dust contributed to the rising hospitalization rate among all generations.

Fine dust contributed to some 55,000 hospitalizations for asthma attacks and 12,000 hospitalizations for respiratory problems each year. About 12,000 people were also hospitalized for cardiovascular diseases, it said.

The researchers also noted that PM-10 caused some 1,400 cases of lung cancer. This is the first time that lung cancer has been directly attributed to fine dust, it added.

They projected that the death rate would rise if pollution levels remained the same, to more than 25,000 a year by 2024. But they said the toll may fall to about 10,900 if the government meets its PM-10 reduction target of 30 micrograms per cubic meter in the metropolitan area.

“From a public health perspective, reducing the fine dust level is critical in lowering the death toll in the metropolitan area,” Leem said.

By Lee Hyun-jeong (rene@heraldcorp.com)
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