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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Surviving Yellow Dust Season

It’s that time of year again. The temperature is nosing its way above 10 degrees, tentative buds are poking out of the tree branches, and any day now, the flowers and blossoms will begin to show themselves; Spring is coming!

Unfortunately, during March and April in Korea, the trade winds shift from the cold Siberian winds of winter, and head towards the hot, humid Southeastern winds of summer, pausing for spring break over the ever-expanding Gobi desert. And these winds have a bad habit of picking up parts of the desert, along with pesticides and pollutants from the Chinese farms and factories in its path, and blowing all this shit dust right into our lungs.

Some years are better than others, and we only have moderate level advisories. Other years, there are days you should not leave the house, and even indoors, wearing a mask is advisable, especially if you have any pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma. There have been dust storms where you can actually see the dust blowing down the street in waves, or see the particles filtering through beams of light, like tiny snowflakes.

Yellow dust mainly poses health risks associated with the respiratory tract (due to the whole “you’re breathing in lungfuls of sand” thing), such as allergies, asthma, emphysema, or other respiratory disease, or more mild symptoms like congestion, eye irritation, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

So, how do you avoid all the nastiness? Well the short answer is to stay indoors during the Advisories and Warnings, and keep your doors and windows closed. It’s also a good idea to avoid exertion; even sweeping the floor gets you breathing faster. We’ll try to keep an eye on the news and alert people via this site and the Facebook page if there is a particularly bad day in store. You can also check the dust levels (and other Ulsan weather) here.

In the meantime, here are some tips on what to do during Yellow Dust season.

– limit the amount of time and energy you spend outdoors

– if you normally wear contacts, wear glasses to avoid eye irritation (or keep your Visine handy)

– buy a mask – this can be one of the cutie ones at Art Box, or try the pharmacy or hardware store for ones meant to filter out smaller dust particles – then actually wear it!

– limit your exposure to the dust – wear long sleeves/pants, wash exposed skin when you get inside (some of the shit stuff mixed in with the sand are pollutants and pesticides, which may cause skin irritation, not to mention the general sandblasting effect it can have)

– drink plenty of water, but don’t eat or drink anything outside

On “Health Advisory” days, when the levels are moderate (Average dust concentration will be at or above 400µm/m3 for over 2 hours )

– if you have a respiratory condition (even just a cough or cold), stay indoors as much as possible, and limit physical exertion

– if you are healthy, avoid outdoor physical activity

– Kindergarten and Elementary children should stay home, and indoors

On “Health Warning” days, when levels are high (Average dust concentration will be at or above 800µm/m3 for over 2 hours)

– everyone should stay inside as much as possible, and keep physical exertion as low as possible if you do venture outside.

– if you have a respiratory condition, you may want to wear your mask indoors if you live in a drafty apartment

– Kindergarten and Elementary classes should be cancelled

– sporting events should be rescheduled

For more information, check out the Korea Meteorological Association’s page.