Last year I stated to check out information on air quality but never got around to finishing a post for the Saloon. For what it is worth, this is what I found out:
There seems to be a lot of concern about air quality in China and I thought I would check out the situation in my city of Hangzhou (Zhejiang).
I found that it was not easy to track down the information I needed; it was even harder to make sense of the information I found. So here is an attempt to clarify the reporting system in China.
1. every country has a different systemhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_quality
2. every country measures pretty much the same things but there are variations:
Hong Kong - ambient respirable suspended particulate (RSP), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
China - 5 atmospheric pollutants, namely sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), suspended particulates (PM10), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3)
3. the classification system can be anything they want it to be:
Hong Kong: see attachment
To find daily reports for your area the best site is that of IPE(Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, which seems to be a collective of ‘green’ NGO’s :http://www.ipe.org.cn/En/pollution/monitoring.aspx
1. select your province
2. select your city
3. select ‘ xxx Air Quality Daily Report and Analysis’
Note: Interesting to note that the graph reads from right to left. Also found that the scale on the y axis is not the same for all cities.
There is a lot of interest in the reporting system for Beijing with the American Embassy reporting ‘crazy mad’ readings on the same day that the authorities said the air was ok. Leaving aside the issue of measuring ( or not measuring) small particles of pollutants, I think that the main difference comes down to the spread of the many measuring stations around Beijing.
Some areas of Beijing (downtown/industrial) report high levels while others (urban fringe) report low levels. As the government report is an average of all results there is every chance that the air you are breathing is going to have more or less pollutants than the official report .
Up to now China has used PM10 measurement as the basis for reports but is moving to PM2.5 as the standard. That will give a better idea of the amount of stuff in the air that can kill you.
There are at least two other sites with reports:
1. Ministry of Environmental Protection The People’s Republic of Chinahttp://www.mep.gov.cn/
- you can click to the English versionhttp://english.mep.gov.cn/
- it has limited data for the day, but you can go cross-eyed trying to locate your city
2. richardstcyr has a guide to working out information provided by a Chinese site. I found it be too complex for my brain to handle – and I think that some of the figures are extrapolated:http://www.myhealthbeijing.com/2011/03/all-china-expats-heres-how-to-find-out-your-citys-real-time-air-quality/