Beijing pollution literally off the chart
Mon, 14 Jan 2013 8:01a.m.
By Louise Watt
People refused to venture outdoors and buildings disappeared into Beijing's murky skyline on Sunday as the air quality in China's notoriously polluted capital went off the index.
The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website that the density of PM2.5 particulates had surpassed 700 micrograms per cubic metre in many parts of the city. The World Health Organisation considers a safe daily level to be 25 micrograms per cubic metre.
PM2.5 are tiny particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres in size, or about 1/30th the average width of a human hair. They can penetrate deep into the lungs, so measuring them is considered a more accurate reflection of air quality than other methods.
The Beijing centre recommended that children and the elderly stay indoors, and that others avoid outdoor activities.
The US Embassy also publishes data for PM2.5 on Twitter, and interprets the data according to more stringent standards.
In the 24-hour period up to 10am Sunday, it said 18 of the hourly readings were "beyond index". The highest number was 755, which corresponded to a PM2.5 density of 886 micrograms per cubic metre. The US Environmental Protection Agency's air quality index goes up to only 500, and the agency advises that anything greater than 300 would trigger a health warning of "emergency conditions", with the entire population likely affected.
While some people vowed to stay indoors with air purifiers turned on, Beijing's streets were still fairly busy Sunday, and there was the familiar sight of heavy traffic on main thoroughfares.
A young couple strolled along hand in hand in the central business district, both with matching white masks strung around their faces. Two Taiwanese tourists wore masks they said they had brought with them because they heard Beijing's pollution was so bad.
"I don't know why there is such heavy haze these past days. It's really quite serious compared with the air quality three days ago," said a 33-year-old lawyer, who would give only his surname, Liu, as he adjusted his own mask. He said he had ventured out only because he needed to go shopping.
Beijing's air started to worsen on Thursday. The Beijing monitoring centre has said the pollution is expected to linger until Tuesday.
PM2.5 can result from the burning of fuels in vehicles and power plants.
Weather conditions are a factor in the recent poor air quality, as a lack of wind means pollutants can easily accumulate and fail to dissipate, said Pan Xiao Chuan, a professor at Peking University's public health department.
"Recent pollution doesn't mean there is an increase in the discharge of pollutants," he said.
Experts say they thought the PM2.5 readings were the highest since Beijing started publishing that data early last year. Public pressure forced the publication of the more detailed air quality data, as a growing Chinese middle class is increasingly vocal about the quality of the environment in which it lives. Hourly air quality updates are now available online for more than 70 cities.
Air pollution is a major problem in China due to the country's rapid pace of industrialisation, reliance on coal power, explosive growth in car ownership and disregard to environmental laws. It typically gets worse in the winter because of heating needs.
Several other cities, including Tianjin on the coast east of Beijing and southern China's Wuhan city, also reported severe pollution over the last several days.
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16/01/2013 5:37:11 p.m.
Jim Seaview wrote:
I do not know why we have to worry about how we market our country with a Pure Green image any more when we compare NZ to what is happening in China. Instead of our Green party continually hassling the Government on the Kyoto protocol and other climate change suggestions maybe they should all fly to China where they coud share all their wisdom with the Chinese Government. Both countries would benefit from such a transfer.
15/01/2013 8:34:08 a.m.
Fair Nzer wrote:
Is it China's National Pride or Shame...only the truth will soon be realised.
14/01/2013 2:08:14 p.m.
Thought China was one of the most innovative countries in the world...and don't they have a program in place on reversing the effects-it would be a good are for them to invest in urgently.
14/01/2013 1:51:21 p.m.
As Nationals paid media representative Mike would say.
Its not china's fault its all Germany's fault lol
I do wonder why we do business with a country that is killing its own people without any care for their safety at all.
14/01/2013 10:16:08 a.m.
This is nothing new as the pollution has been around for a long time.
They need to get their act together instead of trying to make themselves leaders in the world in the export industry.
Plant trees rather than rice more,they have tried to stop population growth but have stopped there
If cars are a problem then it is obvious that wealth is not a problem just greed.
14/01/2013 9:29:09 a.m.
"China can seriously damage your health" would be a good warning to all kiwis. Sick of hearing how China is our future - see what it is really like, YUK.
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