Record-Breaking Air Pollution in Beijing is Beyond 'Hazardous': It's Off the Charts

大杨 via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Smog in Beijing has recently risen from 'hazardous' levels to something closer to 'get-the-hell-out-of-town apocalyptic'. Flights were grounded over the weekend due to poor visibility, and air quality was determined to oscillate between 'very unhealthy' and 'hazardous' (the most extreme ranking).

As you might know, the most widely-regarded air quality monitor in China's capitol is the U.S. Embassy's Twitter feed. And while the city is already famous for its staggeringly disgusting (and dangerous) air pollution, it appears that it has gotten even worse.

Air pollution was recently so thick in Beijing that it was deemed "beyond index" by the U.S. Embassy's instruments.

Twitter, via France 24/Screen capture

The international news agency France 24 reports (read the whole thing for the incredibly gory details):

A dense blanket of smog covered most cities in northeast China this past week, reaching record pollution levels and grounding hundreds of flights at Beijing’s international airport. Public outrage over the quality of the air in the Chinese capital is rising high while the government insists that the problem is down to inclement weather and nothing to be overly worried about.

For most of this week the air in Beijing has been rated as “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” by the US Embassy air monitor, reputed as the most reliable indicator of pollution in the city. On Sunday it posted a new record: “beyond index”, as it registered 522 micrograms of particulate pollutants per cubic meter of air.
That's crazy. That's like guaranteed asthma, or worse. We've covered how deeply deleterious particulate air pollution is to human health and development; levels like this are downright insane--there's little precedent for air pollution levels that high. Check out this YouKu video of what the smog looks like in China:

Bear in mind: millions of people are out walking, working, and living in that stuff.

Aaaaaand that's why every American man, woman, and child; every Republican, Democrat, and Tea Partier, should be thankful for the Clean Air Act (and democracy). It's also why millions of Chinese are starting to come out in force in environmental protests, demanding the hitherto unresponsive state to take heed, so far to little avail. It is, of course, a worthy fight indeed: what's more important than the air we breathe?

Tags: Activism | Air Pollution | Air Quality