Environmental problems

Choking in Beijing - API hits 500 today

Looking southeast towards Changping District and downtown Beijing from Hebei

Yesterday Danwei relayed reports that Beijing's air quality was the worst so far this year, but the air is even worse today.

According to
the State Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), today Beijing's API (Air Pollution Index) is 500, 79 points higher than yesterday, and more than 300 points higher than anything considered healthy. In fact, a U.S. government agency website says breathing in air with an API higher than 300 is "hazardous: Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected."

Looking away from Beijing, northeast to Yanqing District
The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (BJEPB) has released data for each district of Beijing including the outlying rural areas. You can clearly see the pollution bowl effect — Beijing is in a flat plain surrounded by mountains, and the bowl traps heat and air particles. For example, while Beijing's downtown API is 500 today, Yanqing is only 200.

This effect can also be seen in the photographs illustrating this post, taken earlier this week.

There are currently 2 Comments for Choking in Beijing - API hits 500 today.

Comments on Choking in Beijing - API hits 500 today

[W]hile Beijing's downtown API is 500 today, Yanqing is only 200.

according to the link you've posted above, an AQI value of 200 is considered "unhealthy."

though the use of the word "only" in the cited text was no doubt intended to contrast AQI levels in beijing and yanqing, the word is also subtly normative in the worst of ways.

i remember fearing (irrationally) for my life when i first moved to the capital in 1998 and the state-reported winter AQI values would top-out at 150-200 inside the 3rd ring road.

that was a long ten years ago in terms of china's development, to be sure. but it's also, now in retrospect, a scant few stumbles down the slippery slope of environmental degradation to a doubling or near-tripling of upper-marginal AQI values.

one wonders what AQI readings will prove news-worthy in yet another ten years' time.

good thing beijing isn't planning to host a winter olympics.

I believe that the scale tops out at 500 (I've seen it at exactly that value and no higher on a couple of occasions), so you really can't tell quite how horrendous it is! I love Beijing but it's a sick sick city.

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