Don't hold your breath -- Seoul's air gets cleaner

Don't hold your breath -- Seoul's air gets cleaner

When the flags are flying on buses, it's safe to breathe deep
seoul air
"Today's air is as fine as Jeju's," is what the blue flags on buses proclaim.

Seoul is resorting to cuter measures to relay daily air quality information to its residents. 

Starting last week, 2,500 buses around the city have begun sporting little blue flags that read “Today’s air is as fine as Jeju’s,” thereby sneaking insome additional publicity for Jeju Island, which is one of Korea's special environmental conservation areas.

Apparently, the city has been receiving enough air-related inquiries to deem this measure necessary. 

“We had been operating 12 large screens around the city showing daily air quality levels, but still received numerous inquires daily about air conditions,” said Jung-kwan Ko, a representative from the Environmental Policy Department of Seoul City. 

namsan light Blue lights at N Seoul Tower mean it's safe to play outside. “We wanted a different kind of channel to show citizens when it would be safe to engage in outdoor activities or air the house and put the laundry out to dry,” said Ko. 

The bus flags will be up if the fine dust density is below 45 micrograms per cubic meter at 6 a.m. that morning. 

At night, after the buses stop running, the color of the lights at N Seoul Tower will indicate whether the air quality levels are good enough for outdoor activities.

Blue lights mean that it is safe to go jogging.  

Although city reps have said this new measure is being met with “positive responses,” snarky netizens are questioning them as being “childish” and  “unnecessary.” 

Green, green

In related news, thanks to aggressive greener initiatives undertaken by the city beginning in 2005, Seoul’s air has been improving of late. 

The Korea Herald reported today Seoul’s fine dust density was 49 micrograms per cubic meter in 2010, compared to 61 micrograms per cubic meter in 2007. 

Seoul’s nitrogen dioxide levels, however, still fall below international air quality standards, and decreased only one part per billion from 35 ppb in 2009 to 34 ppb in 2010.

Ever intent on reaching international standards, the Ministry of Environment announced on Monday that the government will continue to adopt green measures to improve Korea’s air quality. 

Seoul’s air met state standards 190 days in 2010. This year, as of August, Seoul has seen 105 days of blue flag-worthy “Jeju-quality” air. 

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