Saturday, December 29, 2007
Overdosing on Fresh Air
There's a report that on Thursday Beijing had the worst air quality it's had all year.
According to the Beijing Environmental Protection bureau, 15 of the 16 pollution monitoring systems registered a "five" for air quality.
"Level five is the worst level of air pollution," said a spokeswoman. "This is as bad as it has been all year."
The elderly and children were warned not to go outside on Friday as pollutants from coal burning and vehicle exhaust were suspended in the air. In the last few days there hasn't been much wind in Beijing so the accumulation has led to people breathing in thick smoggy air.
This report comes despite the government promising air quality will improve by the time the Olympics roll around in August.
But international agencies like the United Nations and the World Bank rate Beijing's air quality as one of the worst in the world due to coal burning, sand storms and the increasing number of cars on the road.
The government plans to stop all construction and factories in the spring so that the air will clear by the times the Games begin.
But it's not that simple. The capital doesn't get regular rainfall or wind gusts like coastal areas to guarantee the air will be cleaner in over eight months.
It takes more than just weeks and months to decrease the number of pollutants in the air. It's more a long term thing. Or perhaps the government's band aid solution is to launch its rockets to trigger clouds to sprinkle rain over the city.
My friends here at home ask me about the pollution and I tell them it's frightening. "What do you do? they ask. "There's nothing much you can do except breathe it in!" I reply.
What's even more frightening is that the government is not measuring the smaller pollutants in the air, the microscopic ones that can cause cancer and other chronic respiratory diseases.
Which is why now I'm back home, I'm breathing in a bit deeper everyday... hopefully cleaning out my lungs and getting rid of toxins before inhaling the thick smog again.
While China is a land of opportunity and potential, the pollution is enough to make you think twice about going.