SEOUL – Seoul registered record levels of air pollution on Monday with PM2.5 – particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 microns – reaching 188 micrograms per cubic meter, according to measuring stations in the South Korean capital.
This is the worst air pollution levels recorded in the city since monitoring of air quality started in 2015, surpassing the earlier record of 99 micrograms per cubic meter on March 25, 2017.
Monday’s levels are more than seven times the admissible limit of 25 micrograms per cubic meter set by the World Health Organization.
Spiraling pollution levels over the last four days had prompted the government to activate emergency measures, including restrictions on vehicle movements.
The Environment Ministry also ordered thermal plants near Seoul to lower their production to 80 percent, according to the Yonhap news agency.
The city’s mayor, Park Won-soon, has blamed China for the recent spurt in pollution levels, saying studies indicate that between 50 and 60 percent of these particulate matter come from China, especially Beijing, located some 900 kilometers (559 miles) northwest of Seoul.
The recent hike in air pollution in South Korea has coincided with higher air pollution index in Beijing during the weekend and winds from China blowing over the Korean peninsula since Friday, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA).
KMA said that pollution levels were likely to fall from Tuesday with the arrival of cold winds from the north.
The pollution affects some 20 million people, almost half the population of South Korea, who live in Seoul and its surrounding areas.