Beijing's New Year's Fireworks Tripled Pollution Levels Overnight
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
On the final day of New Year's celebrations, errant fireworks set Rem Koolhaas' TVCC building aflame, killing one firefighter and turning the building into an ominous sign for a difficult year ahead and a symbol for the end of an early century starchitecture boom. But the fireworks that night also left the city under the thickest veil of pollution it has seen since May.At Live From Beijing, Vance Wagner noted
We've seen some dramatically rapid air quality changes in the past here in Beijing, but I can't remember ever seeing a spike like this that could be directly tied to a single event..(See the spike on this Ministry of Environmental Protection graph)
TVCC fire (The Beijinger)Dramatic SpikeThe Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau acknowledged that the concentration of particulate matter (PM10) had reached 400 micrograms per cubic meter, and in certain areas, reached 810 micrograms per cubic meter.
"Heavy Pollution" is what the EPB calls this. The US EPA calls it concentration hazardous. World Health Organization's long-term exposure standard for PM10 particulate matter is a concentration of 20 micrograms per cubic meter.
The fire and the pollution has reignited an occasional debate over fireworks safety, and has led authorities towards reimplementing a ban on fireworks that was partially lifted in 2006.
Water Pollution TooA couple of years ago we noted that as awesome as they are, fireworks can be bad not only for air but water quality, causing spikes in noxious perchlorates in nearby water bodies.
The silver lining here is that pollution in Beijing appears to be decreasing on the whole. The restrictions on cars and factories for the two months around the Olympics had a dramatic impact on pollution, resulting in a 50 percent drop in NO2 and a 20 percent cut in CO2, according to recent NASA satellite data. (See the Asia Society's new "Room with a View" blog, which gives us a daily snapshot of the sky in Beijing.)
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