The sky in Seoul continues to be covered with thick dust and it is hard to breathe comfortably on Wednesday.
Emergency fine dust reduction measures have been imposed for a second straight day in Seoul and its surrounding areas and in Chungcheongbuk-do Province.
The fine dust level in Seoul hit 138 micrograms per cubic meter, and it was 164 in Incheon and 125 in Gyeonggi-do Province as of Wednesday morning. A fine dust level between 81 to 150 is considered "bad" and anything above 150 is considered "very bad".
The Ministry of Environment has issued additional measures in seven more cities and provinces, including Busan and Daegu, for Wednesday as fine dust levels are expected to be "bad" or "very bad" across the entire nation until later in the day.
In an effort to reduce air pollution, grade five emission vehicles, mainly diesel vehicles, will be banned from the road until 9 PM except for in Daegu and Chungcheongbuk-do Province.
The operation of public sector vehicles and public sector workers' vehicles with license plates ending in even numbers is also prohibited.
Meanwhile, research shows that ultrafine dust can lead to elderly people dying prematurely and the number of deaths from air pollution is expected to rise in the coming years.
A policy report by the Seoul Institute said ultrafine dust was to blame for the premature deaths of 1,763 Seoul citizens in 2015.
The report added that an increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter in the annual average ultrafine dust level brings with it a 14 percent higher risk of death for people aged over 65.
"When fine dust or ultrafine dust enters the body, it first causes an inflammatory reaction, and the inflammation affects the lungs or blood vessels and increases lung, cardiovascular, or cerebrovascular disease. And because of the aging population, the same amount of exposure can cause more deaths in the future."
With Seoul's aging population, the report projected that air quality will have a greater influence on people's health in the future and called for more concrete measures from both local and international communities.
The air quality is expected to improve on Thursday but most parts of the country will instead see a cold wave and strong winds.
Lee Min-sun Arirang News.