China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Chinese Pollution Making Korean Rain More Acidic

By Lee Hyo-sik ,Staff Reporter,Via Korea Times

An increasing amount of air pollutants traveling from China has turned rain falling in the Korean Peninsula more acidic over the years.

The National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER) reported Monday that rainfall in Seoul recorded a pH of 4.4 on average last year, the most acidic since 1992. The rainfall recorded a pH of 4.5 in 2004.

A pH (potential of hydrogen) measures an acidity of precipitation. A pH of less than 7 indicates that it is an acid, and a pH of more than 7 indicates that it is an alkali.

Other cities also saw their rainfall become more acidic last year. The rain fell in Inchon recorded a pH of 4.5 in 2005, turning more acidic than a pH of 4.7 a year before, while Taejon had a pH of 4.6.

Pollutants such as sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides are the main culprits for acid rain, as people are using more petroleum and coal in urbanization and industrialization.

Acid rain happens when these chemical substances released into the atmosphere mix with water, oxygen and other chemicals. The mixture turns into acid rain.

``Chinese manufacturers and power plants consuming fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum, are emitting more air-pollutants that trigger acid rain amid the rapid industrialization over the past decades,’’ a NIER researcher said.

``The problem is that a large portion of these pollutants, including sulfur oxides, are flowing toward the Korean Peninsula on the west-bound winds, making rainfall here more acidic,’’ he added.

He advised that residents of large cities exercise precautions not to get wet in the rain and always carry an umbrella.

The NIER said last year that more than 20 percent of sulfur oxides or 93,509 tons of a total of 465,000 tons, that accumulated in Korea in the year of 1998 were found to have originated from China.

Acid rain is known to cause a wide array of skin diseases particularly in the elderly and children, while causing disruption in the ecosystem and corroding buildings.

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