The Good (And Bad) News About China’s Air in 2015
February 22, 2016
China started off 2016 with a mixture of good and bad news regarding their air quality. According to Greenpeace researchers, the “average PM2.5 concentration in 189 cities around China fell by 10% compared to 2014 levels.” That is an impressive feat for one of the world’s largest polluters.
Unfortunately, alongside this, the final months of this year’s winter saw a rise in PM2.5 concentrate within major Chinese cities like Beijing and the other northern areas. This forced the Chinese government to enact its very first “Red Alert” for smog, which closed schools for safety reasons, created restrictions on factories, and the number of cars on the road at a single time. While these measures may seem dramatic, PM2.5 should not be taken lightly. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Particulate matter, or PM, is the term for particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets.” In this case, particles are 2.5 micrometers or smaller in diameter and pose a significant risk to those that inhale them. They can easily become lodged in one’s lungs, causing breathing abnormalities.
The slight reduction of PM2.5 over the past year is clearly a good thing for China’s population and environment. However, the overall PM2.5 levels for roughly 80% of the 366 observed cities is still high above China’s national standard level of 35 micrograms/cubic meter. It is also higher than the World Health Organizations (WHO) standard level of 25 micrograms/cubic meter. The higher the PM2.5 level, the more dangerous the air becomes within the surrounding area. Some cities, such as Hengshui, have a PM.2.5 level as high as 99.20 micrograms/cubic meter, compared to New York City, which only has a PM2.5 level of about 26 micrograms/cubic meter.
Despite the majority of cities still violating national and international levels, China’s reduction of PM2.5 in 2015 expresses its desire to lower its overall pollution levels and create a safer and cleaner environment for its citizens as a whole. Dong Liansai, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace, stated that, “Despite Beijing’s choking winter of red alerts, data from 2015 clearly shows a continued positive trend in Beijing and across the country. However, air quality across China is still a major health hazard”.
China hopes to see additional pollution reductions with the upcoming implementation of their newest Five Year Plan, which hopes to promote clean production, green finance, and change the way China interacts with the environment altogether.
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