You Don't realise How Bad Pollution In China Is Until You Compare It To The US

Beijing Pollution

Photo: AP

Although China’s cities have made progress in reporting their air quality statistics, there is still significant progress that needs to be made, according to a report released by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.But how bad is the actual pollution? Are the figures that the Chinese government publish accurate? Well, the U.S. embassy in Beijing and consulates throughout the country are also concerned, so they started taking their own measurements and publishing them hourly on Twitter.

They use a scale developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Park Service, and other agencies called the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI is calculated for five types of pollution: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

The U.S. diplomatic missions in China measure particle matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5). These types of pollutants are referred to as  “‘fine’ particles and are believed to pose the largest health risks.”

The scale is measured from 0-500:

AQI scale

Here’s how four of China’s biggest cities stack up against the U.S.’s biggest four :

Guangzhou, today’s high on the AQI: 170 at 8:00 a.m.; unhealthy at a 24-hour exposure at this level

Shanghai, today’s high on the AQI: 123 at 6:00 a.m.; unhealthy for sensitive groups at a 24-hour exposure at this level

Beijing, today’s high on the AQI: 367 at 6:00 p.m.; hazardous at a 24-hour exposure at this level

Chengdu, today’s high on the AQI: 196 at 10:00 p.m.; unhealthy at a 24-hour exposure at this level

And here are the 5 most populous U.S. cities (Los Angeles and Houston are notorious for pollutants and poor air quality):

New York, today’s high: 46; good at a 24-hour exposure at this level.

Los Angeles (central), today’s high: 67; moderate at a 24-hour exposure at this level — unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.

Chicago, conditions at 8:00 a.m. (today’s high not available): 18; good at a 24-hour exposure at this level

Houston, conditions at 8:00 a.m. (today’s high not available): 34; good at a 24-hour exposure at this level

To put those figures in even better context, Bakersfield, California — which is a couple hours north of Los Angeles by car — was ranked the U.S.’s most polluted city of 2012, according to the American Lung Association. Bakersfield’s AQI will reach a high of 56 today.

However, the Chinese government has dismissed these figures as illegal and inaccurate. Liu Weimin, a spokesman Foreign Ministry, stated in June: “Foreign embassies and consulates in China don’t have the legal authority to monitor China’s environment or release relevant data, nor do they have the professional capabilities or conditions to do so.”

OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS: Chesapeake Energy Corporation is planning to frack within a mile of a nuclear plant >

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