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Ouch! PRD air quality slammed, allegedly “worse than Beijing”

Posted: 02/22/2013 9:30 am

Grab that mask or even buy a can of fresh air because one expert reckons pollution in the Pearl River Delta is WORSE than the hazy, grey skies of Beijing.

Guangdong’s combination of manufacturing and trade, in particular the production of shoes and cosmetics, has apparently led to a toxic combination lingering in the air.

Speaking to the SCMP, Wu Dui, a researcher at the China Academy of Meteorological Sciences, said air containing PM2.5 particles – nitrogenous organic compounds – is found in larger quantities in our region of the world and are more hazardous to the human body.

The impact was less understood, until now, he said.

Mr Wu has spoken out after research by a British-based university revealed that the urban pollution clouding the skies across Chinese cities are directly linked to a spike in deaths from heart attacks.

Cathryn Tonne at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine led a study into 154,000 patients in England and Wales who had been hospitalised for a heart attack between 2004 and 2007.

They followed the patients for more than three years after their release from hospital. During this period, nearly 40,000 of them died.

Mr Wu goes further, saying the particles have been an endemic problem for well over a decade, but little action has been taken to rectify the situation.

Although while comparing Beijing and the PRD on visual appearances alone shows Beijing’s pollution being orders of magnitude worse, Mr Wu says the invisible effects of the PRD’s pollution are far more detrimental to people’s health.

Here’s a concise primer on the problems with PM2.5:

Around 30 times smaller than a human hair, PM2.5 particles have long been identified as a respiratory problem, as their size enables them to lodge deep in the lungs. Less understood, though, is their impact on cardiac health.

While Guangzhou’s reputation might come in for some criticism, at pollution levels here have never hit the all-time high of 993 microgrames per cubic meter as it did in Beijing on January 12. As it stood at 8pm China-time on February 21, the air quality index stood at:

Beijing: 318 microgrames per cubic meter – Hazardous (US Embassy)
Guangzhou: 138 – Unhealthy for sensitive groups (US Consulate)

Air pollution index (China’s preferred measurement):
Beijing: 267 – Heavily polluted (Government monitoring)
Guangzhou: 73 – Good (Government monitoring)

While that might make us look good, keep in mind the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended safe limit is 25 microgrames over a 24-hour period.

Between March 19-27, the British Consulate in Guangzhou are hosting Low Carbon Week, gathering environmental specialists to meet with local organisations to see what can be done to make Guangzhou cleaner and greener.

The Nanfang will be there with full coverage and analysis.

Image: J Aaron Farr/Flickr

  • Jake

    Yeah, there is no way GZ’s air quality is worse than BJ’s. I was just up in BJ before the holiday it was pretty bad. Not to mention the gray dark color, mix in the pollution, sand kicking up and wind and it really makes for a uncomfortable situation. I think eventually a lot of people from the northern parts of China will eventually more down south. Seems like the weather and environment are much better in Guangdong than they are in BJ and DongBei China.

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