Korea children suffer the second-worst exposure to ultrafine particle pollution in the OECD, just behind notoriously smoggy India, a World Health Organization report said.
The report last month said Koreans under 14 were exposed to a daily average of 24 ㎍of PM2.5 particles in 2016, more than double the rate in Japan of 11.4 ㎍/㎥.
Children constantly exposed to such particles are at a high risk of reduced lung function and are also likely to suffer from chronic lung ailments as adults, it warned. Micro-fine particle concentration of 24㎍/㎥ is considered safe in Korea (0-30 ㎍/㎥), but the WHO's safe level is 10㎍/㎥ or less.
Ha Eun-hee at Ewha Womans University said, "Continued exposure to ultrafine particles causes not only respiratory problems but also a variety of ailments, and it's particularly bad for children."
Bad air quality is causing some concerned parents to move out of Seoul to areas with cleaner air like Gangwon Province or Jeju Island, but the difference is minimal.
The WHO report said children in Korean cities suffer a daily micro-fine particle level of 24.6㎍/㎥ and 23.7㎍/㎥ in the country, a negligible difference. The reason is that Korea is densely populated and that much of the pollution blown over from China and Mongolia blankets the whole country.