PM2.5 Exposure Among Top 4 Health Risk Factors: NTU

air pollution taipei
Air pollution in Taipei

National Taiwan University College of Public Health (NTU), in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, published a report today listing the top four health risk factors leading to death in Taiwan, which included high blood sugar, smoking, high blood pressure, and PM2.5 exposure.

While the other three factors can be controlled on a personal level, PM2.5 exposure is an environmental factor that affects all residents.

The report titled “Taiwan National Burden of Disease Study Reveals Impact of Modifiable Risk Factors on Mortality in Taiwan” analyzed Taiwan’s local health database, including the National Health Survey and others, identified 13 health risk factors, the most important of which were high blood sugar, smoking, and high blood pressure.

In 2009, about 14,900 deaths, or about 10.4% of all deaths, were related to hyperglycemia, while smoking-related deaths totaled 13,340. Hypertension occurred in about 11,190 cases. PM2.5 exposure was blamed for 8,600 deaths in 2009.

Other factors associated to deaths in Taiwan in 2009 included dietary factors (e.g., high sodium and low produce intake) with 7,890 cases, obesity with 7,620 cases, lack of exercise with 7,400 cases, alcohol consumption with 6,350 cases, hepatitis B with 6,300, hepatitis C with 3,170 cases, high cholesterol with 2,070 cases, and betel nut chewing with 1,780 cases.

The report recommended that Taiwan’s traffic, coal-fired power plants and industrial pollution should be improved, with a focus on promoting zero-emission vehicles and revised transportation and energy policies.

Dr. Lin Hsien-ho (林先和), an associate professor at NTU’s College of Public Health, said that PM2.5 exposure is also a regional problem with central and southern Taiwan most affected.

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) introduced new measures that could prohibit vehicles on the roads during heavy pollution days, according to a CNA report. During extremely hazardous air pollution levels, the EPA could shut down all traffic. The measures are set to take effect on Friday.

The air quality index (AQI) around Taipei this afternoon was moderate, with levels ranging from 57 to 76 at 4:30 pm.

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