Dust blown in from China is part of the problem. Fine dust hits 300 micrograms per cubic metre in Seoul and Gyeonggi. People rush to buy personal hygiene products and masks for children.
Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sales of hand cleansers, laundry detergents and masks for babies have risen sharply amid growing parental concerns over worsening levels of fine dust in the air during this grey early spring, local businesses reported Friday.
Fine dust -- particles smaller than 10 micrometres -- can cause respiratory ailments and undermine the body's immune system.
For weeks, South Korea has been grappling with ever-worsening air quality caused by particulate matter both emitted at home and blowing in from China, mostly from the Gobi Desert and Inner Mongolia.
On 30 March, South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for China’s cooperation during a meeting with a Chinese envoy, stressing the seriousness of the problem.
Yesterday, the government announced that it will implement regulations requiring kindergartens, elementary schools and special schools to install air purification systems.
According to the World Health Organisation, the safety level for fine particles is 50 micrograms per cubic metre.
At 2 pm yesterday, the concentration of fine dust was over 300 micrograms per cubic metre in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.
In Incheon, South Chungcheong Province, Sejong, Ulsan and Busan, levels of fine dust topped 200 micrograms per cubic metre.
For the first time, pollution caused the cancellation of two pro baseball games yesterday in Seoul.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety warned consumers against false advertisements that claim that ordinary masks can block fine particles and yellow dust. Masks that are effective in countering fine dust and other pollutants should have the KF94 and KF99 marks.*
A study by the Seoul Research Institute of Public Health and Environment found that only those from and above KF80 are effective.
Meanwhile, Agabang & Company, a leading toddler clothing and product company, said its sales of KF80 masks for infants surged 92 per cent in the first three months of the year.
Putto Houzz, a skin care brand, said its sales of hand cleansing agents soared 34.9 per cent between January and March. Sales of fabric conditioners also went up.
Goongbe, another baby product brand, also reported more than a 200 per cent increase in sales of cleansing tissues in March from a year earlier.
* KF is the acronym for Korean Filter. It is the mark of approval given by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to reliable prevention masks. The number next to KF represents the rough percentage of particles masks can prevent.