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Taiwan study confirms PM2.5 pollution causes lung disease, liver cancer

Early results of a study being carried out by the Taiwan government show a connection with PM2.5 pollutants and lung and liver disease

Man wears a surgical mask on a polluted day in Kaohsiung.

Man wears a surgical mask on a polluted day in Kaohsiung. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Preliminary findings by a group of Taiwanese government agencies on the effects of excessive PM2.5 (particles suspended in the air less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) humans include lung disease and liver cancer, while in terms of areas, and central and southern Taiwan are in the most urgent need of air pollution control, reported Apple Daily.

Starting in 2015, Taiwan's National Health Research Institute (NHRI), Health Promotion Administration (HPA), and the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and been collaborating a study measuring the long-term health impacts of air pollution on Taiwanese citizens.

As this year's research draws to a close and as results are to be released in January of 2018, a correlation has been found with exposure to PM2.5 and respiratory disease in children and the elderly, as well as liver cancer. The study has also found that central and southern Taiwan are in the most urgent need of air pollution reduction efforts.

Kuo Yu-liang (郭育良) head of NHRI's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences said the main domestic sources of air pollution in Taiwan are traffic emissions, industrial emissions, coal burning, steelmaking, and suspended road dust. He emphasized that the most hazardous pollutants affecting one's health are PM2.5, followed by ozone and nitrogen oxide.

Kuo said that with the exception of eastern Taiwan, much of the rest of the country, including northern, central, and southern Taiwan record annual average concentrations exceed the annual standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter, with air quality in central and southern Taiwan in most urgent need of attention.

Kuo said that the study found that PM2.5 most adversely affects the lung function of elderly people over 65 and children. In children, PM2.5 can cause respiratory tract infections and asthma, while in adults over the age of 65, the pollutant can cause greatly exacerbate pulmonary obstruction disease, or even lead to liver cancer.

The study has also found a correlation between PM10 exposure and deteriorating kidney function. While an increase in carbon monoxide exposure by pregnant women will increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes and fetal atopic dermatitis.

Kuo noted that the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), which considers the simultaneous exposure of multiple pollutants and their health effects, is under development and will better explain the health effects on the elderly than the current Air Quality Index (AQI).