Saturday, 12 January 2013

Beijing -- The Ultimate Smog City

An eerie smog-filled sky near the Worker's Stadium in Beijing
When I lived in Beijing from 2008-2010, I thought the pollution levels were quite bad many days of the year.

I did experience the notorious sand storms, but the sand was so fine that it was hard to "see" it; while some people would wrap their heads in silk scarves, the odd surgical mask seemed somewhat pointless and so I never really took precautions for my lungs.

Then there was one day where we woke up to a yellow sky, thanks to more sand blown in from Inner Mongolia.

We never really knew the extent of the pollution levels; we could only judge by seeing how blue the sky was, or if it was blue at all.

In any event the United States Embassy has an air quality monitor on top of its building and it regularly tweets the readings.

Last year the Chinese government got annoyed because the readings were completely different from its own (ie off the charts) and tried to force the Americans to take it down, but the embassy claimed it was information for its own staff and not for residents.

Today's API readings were at 728
And today the US Embassy's air monitoring system has recorded readings even beyond anything we've heard of -- 845, "Beyond Index" it tweeted.

Just a reminder: The World Health Organization guidelines says the average concentration of the smallest particles, called PM2.5, should be no more than 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

The WHO considers air to be unhealthy at 100, and at 300, children and the elderly should remain indoors. And while the US Embassy reading was over 800, the official Beijing readings reported pollution levels over 400.

What to make of the 845 reading?

Until the Chinese government seriously takes action to find a sustainable way to have the economy continue to grow but in a more environmentally conscious way, its people are continue to suffer from serious respiratory diseases and more cancer-related illnesses.

Or is that just not a concern at all?


  1. The air in Hong Kong today wasn't great either. I wonder what the reading would be if the US Embassy monitored air quality here...

  2. Maybe we should encourage the US Embassy to set up their monitoring system here too!