Air quality improving faster than expected: EPA

Taichung cityscape is seen in this file photo from November 2018. According to the Environmental Protection Administration, Taichung City’s air quality showed the biggest improvement with a 75 percent decrease in red alerts last year. (NOWnews file photo)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Air quality index (AQI) flashed 310 red alerts in 2018, reaching the government’s target of halving alerts from 997 in 2015 to 499 by 2019, ahead of schedule, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said on Jan. 1.

According to a press release issued by the EPA that day, there were 310 red alerts, meaning unhealthy air for the general public, in 2018, a marked improvement from 483 the year before and 898 in 2016.

Taichung City showed the biggest improvement with a 75 percent decrease in red alerts, followed by Nantou County with 63.6 percent, Kinmen County (57.9 percent), Pingtung County (53.8 percent) and Yunlin County (49.1 percent), EPA data showed.

Nationwide, there was an overall improvement of 35.8 percent across the country.

However, there was an overall increase in northern Taiwan, with Taipei and New Taipei posting a combined total of 12 red alerts last year. The EPA said those all occurred on March 3, 2018, when there was insufficient wind to disperse air pollutants, following firecrackers being set off during one of Taiwan’s biggest cultural events, the Lantern Festival, a day earlier.

The EPA’s air quality index takes into account ozone, PM2.5 and PM10 particulates, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide concentrations in the air.

By Wu Hsin-yun and William Yen