Beijing air pollution levels off the scale

By Lucy Brake - 01 Mar 2011 23:12:1 GMT
Beijing air pollution levels off the scale

Beijing air quality levels were recorded by the U.S. Embassy staff based in the city as exceeding the standard levels. The maximum level of the air quality charts is 500 API (Air Pollution Index), but in Beijing the recordings soared to a massive 595 API. The Beijing weather bureau reported that some parts of the city had visibility to only 200 metres.

The U.S. Embassy officials have been measuring the air quality themselves in the Chinese capital city of Beijing and said that the levels they have recorded this week were ''beyond index''. This means that the measurements they took were well above the threshold that is considered normally to be 'hazardous' to human health.

The situation with the air quality levels in the wider Beijing metropolitan area was of such concern that the entire population of the city, some 22 million people, were advised to try not to go outside. This included healthy adults without any known problems that could be affected by high air pollution.

Polluted air can have potentially deadly impacts on human health, as people breath in nasty combinations of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds. These substances can all significantly contribute to respiratory problems, particularly for people already susceptible to asthma and allergic reactions.

The problem for Beijing is that the city is powered by many coal-fired electricity stations which constantly pump nasty pollutants into the air and it is also home to an estimated 4.8 million cars which are considered to be a major source of air pollutants. Then as the temperature rises and the wind stops blowing, a thick blanket of polluted smog covers the city.

With the continued rapid population growth expected in China and the economic growth also moving at a fast pace, the demand for electricity from coal plants will continue and the problem of air pollution in Beijing will not be going away. The Chinese government are now planning on revealing a major environment plan to help manage its air pollution, which is expected to include efforts to reduce pollution through taxes and investment in green technology.

So while the Chinese Government works on their ambitious air quality plan, the residents of Beijing will continue to strain for a breath of fresh air.