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Mid-Autumn Festival BBQ accused of being 'eco-hazard'

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday named Mid-Autumn Festival "Eco-hazard Day" and urged residents to forgo barbecue outings next Tuesday.

Yuan Shao-ying, EPA's pollution control director, explained that open grill barbecues, a common activity on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival, release a disproportionate amount of airborne pollutants.

On the eve of last year's Mid-Autumn Festival, October 7th, the EPA recorded a 45% jump in carbon monoxide pollution over northern Taiwan. At 11 p.m., the EPA detected 1.41 particles per million of carbon monoxide, or 0.44 ppm more than average. The EPA estimated that a third of the total monoxide released was attributable to barbecue activities.

Comparatively, the carbon monoxide emitted by motored vehicles in Taipei city and county combined during the average day is 1.0 ppm. "Just one evening of barbequing last Moon Festival equaled a half day's worth of vehicle carbon monoxide pollution," Yuan said.

Carbon monoxide, created by incomplete burns, is more toxic and immediately detrimental to human health than carbon dioxide, or greenhouse gas.

Aside from carbon monoxide, barbecues emit other poisonous gases like sulphur dioxide.

The air quality degraded to a pollution standard index (PSI) of 100, or "poor", in Sungshan, Wanli and 14 other areas in Taipei city and county in the evening of last year's Moon Festival.

"It is our recommendation that cities and counties refrain from sponsoring and promoting barbecue outings this Mid-Autumn Festival," Yuan said.

Regardless of EPA warnings, Taipei city allocated eight public parks with a combined capacity of 2,000 people next Monday and Tuesday for barbeque activities. Municipal authorities will also provide grills and charcoals for barbecue-goers.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon on the lunar calendar, which falls on September 25th this year. The occasion is also known as Moon Festival, or the day of the year when the moon is at its fullest and brightest.

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