1. Inconveniences in Living Conditions
Noise, odor, air pollution and conflict with neighbors are some of the problems that citizens of Seoul encounter on a daily basis. These issues not only affect the quality of life but also are directly related to safety of the citizens.
According to a research conducted in 2013 by the Seoul Institute, 33.6% of Seoul residents see noise as the second most serious environmental issue after air pollution. In fact, the number of noise-related complaints soared in a few years: in 2009, 15,922 cases of noise-related complaints were lodged while in 2013 the number jumped to 27,558. Seoulites also encounter a higher level of road noise than those of European nations. The current noise level in Seoul is 65dB(A) for daytime and 55dB(A) for nighttime.
Sewer odor, rotten smells of ginkgo nuts and trash smells in summertime are some of the first priorities that Seoul needs to tackle if it wants to remain as a popular destination for more than 10 million visitors every year. A study conducted by SMG found that 52% of the residents in Seoul have experienced some kind of discomfort due to malodor at least once. Causes of malodor are several, but in most cases sewage was the greatest problem (86%) as opposed to odor associated with business (3.5%). Around 10% cited restaurants for the discomfort. The study shows that the city government clearly needs anti-odor measures and that citizen participation would be an important factor.
Many of Seoul citizens spend most of their days indoor. Therefore, the quality of indoor air matters greatly when it comes to public health. Yet, the lack of legal ground to regulate indoor air in daycare centers, hospital and educational institutions has given rise to social issues. The current legal system exempts daycare facilities less than 430m2 of total ground area from indoor air quality control requirement. This becomes problematic since 91% of such facilities fall to the exemption category. In addition, sources of air pollutants vary depending on the type of facilities, making a uniform measure ineffective. Therefore, targeted and varied pollution control mechanisms are necessary to deliver cleaner air to Seoulites.
In fact, asbestos, a group of minerals hazardous to human are found widely in buildings, which poses a serious threat to public health. Asbestos was used widely as construction materials during 1970s to 80s, especially for buildings with low budgets such as small-scale daycare centers and schoolyards. Given this 1st grade carcinogenic materials has a latent period of 10-30 years, citizens will soon face the health hazard from this material. Therefore, a thorough inspection for the harmful material is urgently needed.
2. Policies to Minimize Inconvenience
Seoul is devoting efforts to design policies to control risk factors that can affect the quality of life and the health of its citizens. is adopting a strategy tailored to different pollutant sources in order to most effectively tackle the issue.
Much of the city government’s efforts are channeled to creating a system that allows a systematic control of noise, such as a noise control manual and a noise map. Large-scale construction sites, the most frequently cited source of noise complaints, are now subject to a year-round monitoring system that checks the noise level around the clock. Soundproof walls and low-noise road surfaces are also being considered as long as they don’t hurt the aesthetics of the road.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has made moves to tackle odor in Seoul with odor control projects in water reuse centers and food waste treatment facilities. More resources are being channeled to provide an odor control manual to small-scale enterprises having difficulties tackling odor of their own. Seoul’s anti-odor efforts also include mapping out odor-heavy areas, revamping septic tank structure to eliminate the source of odor, installing spray-type odor reduction devices, and establishing odor control facilities.
Clean Air for Everyone to Breathe
Under the vision of ‘Safe, Pleasantly Breathable Air for All’, Seoul set up 4 specific strategies.
First is protecting children, youth and other health-sensitive population form polluted air. Daycare centers and educational facilities are subject to a strict clean indoor air quality standard.
The second target is controlling basement level air quality. In particular, ultrafine particles (PM-2.5) and radon should be eliminated and air quality of subway trains will be closely regulated.
The third target includes a differentiated control standard by type of pollutant. For instance, levels of TAB (total airborne bacteria) and formaldehyde that are mostly found in daycare centers and postpartum care centers will be regulated to bring them below the standard level.
Lastly, Seoul aims at enhancing pollution level testing capabilities through strong management infrastructure.
Seoul is also ramping up its efforts in asbestos curbing measures. To prevent asbestos from being scattered throughout the air, a more stringent monitoring system is being carried out. Also, committed to protect the health of its citizens, Seoul is providing support to patients suffering from exposure to asbestos while channeling much resource to control asbestos level in facilities such as kindergarten and schools where health-sensitive populations are accommodated.