Fine particulates almost 40 times the safe level have created a health emergency in Beijing.

Beijing Orders Official Cars Off Roads to Curb Pollution

Beijing ordered government vehicles off the roads as part of an emergency response to ease air pollution that has smothered China’s capital for the past three days, while warning the smog will persist until Jan. 16.

Hospitals were inundated with patients complaining of heart and respiratory ailments and the website of the capital’s environmental monitoring center crashed.

Official measurements of PM2.5, fine airborne particulates that pose the largest health risks, rose as high as 993 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing last night, compared with World Health Organization guidelines of no more than 25.

“The number of people coming into our emergency room suffering heart attacks has roughly doubled since Friday when the air pollution became really severe,” Ding Rongjing, deputy head of cardiology at Peking University People’s Hospital said in a telephone interview yesterday.

China, which the World Bank estimates has 16 of the world’s 20 most-polluted cities, is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Beijing, home to more than 20 million people, began to release real-time air quality data measuring pollutants of 2.5 micrometers in size in September... [emphasis mine]

Tags: China, air pollution

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On Monday, air pollution reached "critical levels" in 67 of China's cities,...

Beijing's bureau of environmental protection held a rare press conference Monday to explain the severity of the pollution problem, and outline an emergency plan to reduce the levels of harmful air particles.

The government’s recent attention to the issue comes after decades of prioritizing economic development over environmental conservation, critics say.

China's state media finally admits to air pollution crisis

Is the cause just car related? Or is it some other cause? Or perhaps many causes?

Nevermind - the article states it in the conclusion

The deterioration in city’s air quality has been exacerbated by growth in heavy industries in areas surrounding Beijing such as steel making, smelting, power generating and petrochemical sectors, said Ma Jun, a Beijing-based environmentalist and founder of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. “Increased demand for heating in winter, more vehicles running on the roads, have all contributed to the high level of pollutants in the air.”

... among the world’s ten most air polluted cities, 7 are in China. They are Taiyuan, Beijing, Urumqi, Lanzhou, Chongqing, Jinan and Shijiazhuang.

Earlier this week, the NY Times reported that the air-quality monitoring device atop the United States Embassy in Beijing had recorded the highest levels yet. The device measures fine particles called PM 2.5 because they are 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller. An air quality index of 500 is considered the worst possible and yet the device recorded a level of 755. For a comparison, the current air quality index for New York City is 19. [emphasis mine]

7 of 10 Most Air-Polluted Cities Are in China

wow - 755 is so high

Sorry - late getting over here. I am just learning about this crisis. Thanks for educating us on the issues.

India's air pollution may be worse than China's.

Black Carbon Pollution Is Two To Three Times Worse In India And Chi...

A new study has found that global estimates of black carbon emissions in certain areas of India and China could be two to three more times concentrated than previously thought. Black carbon,...

... a team of researchers from France and China developed a new model for discerning the amount of black carbon pollution in the air. Previous models had failed to take into account regional differences, and instead provided information at the country level.

Short-term and long-term exposure to black carbon can lead to a broad range of health impacts, including respiratory and cardiovascular effects as well as cancer and premature death, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Black carbon contributes to particulate matter, or PM, pollution, which is made up of a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. Black carbon falls within the PM2.5 category, otherwise known as “fine particles,” with diameters that are between 1.0 and 2.5 micrometers and are considered to pose the greatest health risks.

A recent World Health Organization study, “2010 Global Burden of Disease,” found that outdoor air pollution is contributing annually to over 3.2 million premature deaths worldwide...

... while Beijing may be sending out warnings, the situation in Indian cities like Delhi would seem to be even worse. “The United States Embassy in Beijing sent out warnings in mid-January, when a measure of harmful fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 went above 500, in the upper reaches of the measurement scale, for the first time this year:”

“But for the first three weeks of this year, New Delhi’s average daily peak reading of fine particulate matter from Punjabi Bagh, a monitor whose readings are often below those of other city and independent monitors, was 473, more than twice as high as the average of 227 in Beijing. By the time pollution breached 500 in Beijing for the first time on the night of Jan. 15, Delhi had already had eight such days. Indeed, only once in three weeks did New Delhi’s daily peak value of fine particles fall below 300, a level more than 12 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization.“ [first emphasis mine]



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This is truly a tragedy! And industries are generally free to pass the burden of "externalities" like pollution to society at large.

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