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Seoul to provide masks for elderly amid bad air quality

The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced Thursday that free masks for filtering fine particulate matter will be provided to the elderly and disabled amid worries over potential health hazards caused by bad air quality. 

Seoul’s Namsan Tower is blanketed in thick smoke. (Yonhap)
Seoul’s Namsan Tower is blanketed in thick smoke. (Yonhap)

According to a press release, the city is set to supply 2.2 million free masks to facilities and community centers for the elderly and disabled throughout the city, in addition to 321,000 free masks that were distributed for free in the first quarter of this year.

“Airborne particulate matter is a public health disaster of modern society,” said Kim In-cheol, director of the city’s welfare department.

The capital city also seeks to carry out fine dust reduction measures, including restricting old diesel vehicles from entering the city when fine dust levels are high.

Earlier this year, a free public transport program during rush hour was introduced when the average daily density of ultra-fine dust hit more than 50 micrograms per cubic meter, in the hopes of reducing car use and carbon emissions. The measure, however, was abolished in February as it had been criticized as being a waste of the city’s budget.

On the national level, President Moon Jae-in raised concerns about air pollution arriving from China during talks with Chinese special envoy Yang Jiechi on March 30.

Invisible dust particles, classified as harmful by the World Health Organization, can penetrate into the respiratory system, raising the risk of lung cancer, experts warned.

By Bak Se-hwan (