Why write a page about Air Pollution in Taichung?
In case you didn’t know, air pollution in Taichung is seriously bad! So serious that my wife and I have decided to leave the city, and move our base down southeast in Manzhou Township, in beautiful and wild Kenting National Park – where the air quality is much better.
After receiving few emails from unhappy travelers this past few years, I feel the need to put out a “warning” about Taichung’s growing air pollution problem, as it can really affect people’s experience as they visit the city.
Update 2021: Unfortunately, the good trend that had been going on for the past 3 years has officially ended. Air quality in Taichung is back to the same dangerous levels we had seen between around 2014 and 2017. We are sadly back to N95 masks for outdoor activities, air filters ON 24/7 indoors, and polluted grey skies.
Update 2020: Good news! Things have improved radically the past 2 years. Thanks to regulations about emission at Taipower Taichung Power Plant, the air quality situation in central Taiwan is much better. We still have some bad days where it’s safer to go outside wearing a N95 mask, but it’s no longer the norm. I still have my air filters in the house, but they’re not on 24/7 like between 2014 and 2017. Blue skies are back in Taichung!
Welcome to the “gas chamber”!
Most people’s ideal vacation does not include walking in thick clouds of dangerous yellow smog. Wearing an anti-pollution mask all day is not on most travelers to-do list, so I feel it’s necessary to put this notice about the severe air quality problem in Taichung.
One message I received from a reader described Taichung as “a gas chamber“. The man went on to say: “Why on earth would you describe Taichung as being this beautiful place where you can walk around and sit outside at cafes… It’s simply not true! How can you be outside when the air is poisonous!?”
Another reason I decided to publish my thoughts about this unfortunate environmental situation is that I recently had friends who visited from Canada, and I just felt so guilty about having invited them when I realized they were struggling with the air pollution. As we walked around People’s Park (the Green Belt) in downtown Taichung, it was obvious they were upset by the color of the sky, the yellowish 3D appearance of the air, and the smell of whatever was in there. They were looking around in disbelief, asking if this was normal, saying this was really shocking, and that they had never seen such dirty air. One of them mentioned feeling like she had “something” in her throat and that breathing was painful. Serious stuff!
Visitors and tourists complain
A visitor mentioned that Taichung had worse air quality than even some of the big cities in China. Another lady pointed out she had been living here for 3 years with her husband and two kids, and they had decided to leave Taichung due to the worsening air pollution crisis. Yes, it’s a serious mess that is pushing not only this lady and her family out of Taiwan, but also many other long-term expats who have had enough of those grey skies and the smell of burned coal and smoke in the air.
What causes the air pollution in Taichung?
For someone visiting Taichung for the first time, the first logical answer that comes to mind is scooters, simply because they are everywhere! Sure, all this exhaust emission must be a contributing factor, but it’s unlikely the main one, because Taipei has as many of them, if not more, but the air is not as polluted as Taichung’s.
The main culprit may be the Taipower Taichung Power Plant, located just outside the city, in Longjing, by the Taiwan Strait. This coal-fired behemoth is the world’s largest coal-fired power station! That’s right, not Taiwan’s biggest, not Asia’s biggest – THE WORLD’S BIGGEST!!! It is also, unsurprisingly, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. Scary.
Websites and apps about air pollution in Taichung
First of all, let me tell you that there is a really high degree of confusion about the methods and instruments used by various parties to measure and publish air pollution data. I don’t know the exact details, I am NOT trained in any way to evaluate or review any of those platforms which publish levels of pollution, but all I know is that they are not in line with the measurements I get when I use my own smart air quality monitor device – the Laser Egg.
The following real-time air quality index websites may still be helpful to give you an idea about where you might not want to be on a given day. The winds influence greatly how air pollution moves around Taiwan, especially along the west coast, and sometimes it can be clear in Taipei, but horrible in Taichung, or vice-versa.
AQI Real Time PM2.5 Air-Quality Index
How to protect yourself
If you are still wanting to visit Taichung after reading this grim article, you should know that there is a way to protect yourself from this pollution as you walk around the city. Wear an anti-pollution mask. I would suggest you purchase one before you come to Taiwan as they are surprisingly not easy to find around here. You can get some really high-quality ones on Amazon.
Where can you buy an anti-pollution mask in Taiwan
There are three places that I know of where you can get proper anti-pollution masks in Taiwan: Watson, Cosmed, and 五金行. You will want to get an N95 mask.
Masks with N95 rating can filter up to 95 percent of the harmful PM2.5 particulate matter. I would suggest that you ask your hotel reception where to find a Watson or Cosmed nearby. Just show them the following picture and they will know. Most likely there will be one within walking distance. These stores are all over the place.
The other option is 五金行 (Wu Jin Hang), a chain store that specializes in construction materials. These stores are also found in every city around Taiwan. At 五金行, you’ll be able to find N95 mask in the paint section. To find a branch, just copy/paste the Chinese name 五金行 in Google Maps.
News Articles about Pollution in Taiwan
Taipower to cut central and southern emissions
Good enough? The utility proposed cutting pollution levels at its Taichung and Sinda plants, while an academic said coastline residents show an elevated cancer rate.
Read the article in the Taipei Times here.