The Nanfang / Blog

PM2.5 Glasses And Paper Bags – Environmental Chic for Smog-battered Chinese

Posted: 10/13/2014 8:30 am

Beijing’s air quality index has registered above 300, or “hazardous”, over several days last week, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Many residents braced themselves for the “airpocalypse” by wearing face masks and cranking their air purifiers at home. Some Chongqing residents were even spotted wearing PM 2.5 glasses and paper bags with blackened lungs to raise environmental awareness.

On Saturday in Chongqing’s Foreigners’ Street, a popular tourist attraction, a number of shop owners wore the glasses and paper bags emblazoned with, “we need fresh air”. Others held signs shaped like a hand that read, “we need to protect our environment like our home”, and “protect environment, quash PM 2.5″.

However, not everyone was complaining. Retailers selling face masks, air purifiers, and any other smog resistant products made a pretty penny. In the last few days, the average price of an air purifier in Beijing went from RMB 40 to as high as RMB 20,000, while the price of face masks rocketed to nearly RMB 100, up from RMB 2.5, according to the report.

Whether those products actually protect residents remains debatable, however. State governments in seven provinces, coupled with 35 local government bodies are working to formulate regulations on air quality related products. The regulations are expected to be released in 2015.

Photos: China News


Slick New App Gives You Pollution Data With a Bit of Attitude

Posted: 05/21/2014 5:40 pm

In most parts of the world, people check the weather before they go outside. That may happen in China too, but the more important question is, “What is today’s PM2.5?”

The fact we even know what that means is a sad commentary on the times we live in. While most of us (though not all) have clearly made peace with China’s lung-blackening pollution levels, we still want to know when it makes more sense to watch a movie rather than go for a run. To help with that, a slick new iOS app called Airpocalypse has been released detailing pollution levels in 16 Chinese cities, including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong (Zhuhai clearly not needing it).

There are many apps out there already, but this one adds the current temperature, forecast and the pollution report, and does it all with a bit of ‘tude. The app’s slogan? “The air in China sucks. We hate it too.”

You can download it here (iOS only at this point). Check out the screenshots below.


Pearl River Delta to tackle air pollution, seeks improvement by 2017

Posted: 02/17/2014 9:08 am

It’s taken some time, but it looks like Guangdong wants to get serious about air pollution. The Pearl River Delta region plans to improve its air quality by reducing its annual PM 2.5 concentration by 15% by the end of 2017, local Chinese newspaper Southern Daily has reported.

The announcement came from the Guangdong government after it formulated a detailed resolution to combat air pollution from 2014 to 2017. The province aims to cut the region’s PM 2.5 concentration from 2012’s 42 micrograms per cubic meter to 35.7 micrograms in 2017, closer to the national air quality standard of 35 micrograms, the report said.

PM 2.5 are toxic particles small enough to enter lungs and pollute a person’s blood streams, causing cardiovascular ailments, respiratory disease and lung cancer. Compared with air pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Yangtze River Delta, the PRD’s PM 2.5 readings are slightly better, Wu Dui, an air quality researcher with the China Meteorological Administration, was quoted as saying in the report. But that doesn’t mean overall pollution still isn’t a problem.

The report came only three days after the country’s State Council decided to offer a total of RMB10 billion ($1.65 billion) in financial incentives to reward cities and regions that make progress in air pollution control.

According to the Guangdong Meteorological Bureau, the province had an average of 43 smog days last year, one fewer day than in 2012. Guangzhou also had an average of 51 smog days in 2013, 20 days fewer than the year previous, China News reported on January 2.

Taoyuan in Jiangmen, Guangdong recorded a spike of PM 2.5 reading on January 5, which reached 257, according to statistics released by the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau earlier.

PM 2.5 measuring between 201 and 300 is considered “very unhealthy” by US standards. China’s air pollution causes premature deaths between 350,000 and 500,000 each year, according to China’s former health minister Chen Zhu.

Home page photo from Yangcheng Evening News 


Dusty, grimy smog blankets the Pearl River Delta

Posted: 10/8/2013 7:00 am

Due to the lack of wind and rain during the National Day holiday, cities across the Pearl River Delta were blanketed in smog that reduced visibility to 5-8 km in most cities and counties and even as low as 1km in some others, Nanfang Daily reports.

Air quality monitoring stations in Zhaoqing , Jiangmen, Zhongshan, Shunde, and Zhuhai reported “moderately serious” pollution, and local stations are known for underplaying the seriousness of air pollution. Although it was Beijing’s airpocalypse that made headlines around the world early this year, some experts believe the air quality in the Pearl River Delta is as bad if not worse.

A report from Beijing University released in December concluded the dangerous particle PM2.5 has sent 8,572 people to early graves in Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an. PM2.5 levels have been particularly hazardous in the PRD over the past week.

Experts warn that while haze is as bad as it has been in recent days, citizens be doubly aware of traffic safety, and think twice about doing strenuous exercise outdoors.


How bad is pollution? Expert says people in Guangzhou already have black lungs

Posted: 03/7/2013 4:22 pm

This is probably not what you want to read today, but the truth hurts: an expert says pollution is so bad in Guangzhou that many people’s lungs have already turned black by the time they hit 40 years old.

Photo credit: Life of Guangzhou

Zhong Nanshan is a Chinese lung expert who spoke yesterday at the National People’s Congress in Beijing. Unfortunately for him, some of China’s leaders may not like what he has to say:

On combating China’s haze pollution, Zhong believed the most important thing was to change the mindset. “Let’s get this straight – is gross domestic product [GDP} more important – or our people’s health?”

Amen to that.

It’s a foregone conclusion that PM2.5 particulates cause cancer. While Zhong didn’t provide any figures for Guangzhou or elsewhere in the PRD, he did say that lung cancer rates in Beijing have skyrocketed by 60% in the past 10 years.

Zhong said controlling pollution is possible if the government makes it a priority, and suggested tying pollution levels to the evaluation of local officials.

He’s preaching to the converted.

Source: SCMP


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


Airpocalypse: Beijing’s bad, but PRD can’t be too smug about pollution

Posted: 01/16/2013 7:00 am

The smog in Beijing

Photographs of the smog in Beijing have hit international newspapers and caused a stir in the blogosphere over the past few days as PM2.5 readings reached 900 in some areas. To give you an idea how bad that is, 301-500 is considered “hazardous” according to the official US measurements in Beijing. In fact, there is no classification for anything above 500, so it simply reported “beyond index”.

Now hospitals in the capital are struggling to deal with illnesses caused by the unclean air, according to Shanghaiist.

However, Beijing is far from the only Chinese city suffering from heavy pollution. Hangzhou, among others, saw rescue services fail to respond to a factory fire for nearly 3 hours because the fog prevented anyone from noticing.

Here in the Pearl River Delta (PRD), which is a manufacturing hub, cities are struggling to reduce the number of cars on the road which has an impact on air quality.

There’s no good reason not to buy an air purifier

The Ministry of Environmental Protection provides data on its English language website. According to the website’s figures, the state of the air in Guangzhou and Shenzhen is ‘good’, as is the air in Foshan, Zhuhai and every other PRD city for which there is data.

However, the ministry’s data describes Beijing as “mild polluted” (sic), so perhaps its standards can’t necessarily be trusted.

On Monday, the Guangzhou City Government held a meeting to discuss progress on a drive to reduce PM2.5 in the air by at least 6% from 2010 to 2015, Guangzhou Daily reports.

The paper says the city is currently on course to do this, but an article in the same issue said that Guangzhou would take at least 10 years to get the Air Quality Index down to 35, the level that is deemed safe in China.

Leading air pollution expert Wu Dui of Zhongshan University said even that would be an amazing achievement as the city would have to reduce the PM2.5 reading by an average of 1.2 micrograms per cubic meter every year.

Although the PM2.5 reading in the city is not as high as Beijing or Shanghai, the article goes on to say that the PRD still leads the way in causing damage to the ozone layer through human activity.

The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou provides information on air quality and PM 2.5 readings through an app that you can learn about at the consulate’s website.

In Shenzhen, during the ongoing Municipal People’s Congress, a political adviser criticized a quarry in Futian District’s Antuoshan area for causing air pollution that could be affecting 100,000 residents, Shenzhen Daily reported:

Saying that nothing related to the quarry has improved since last year’s session of the Shenzhen committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), She Guozhi raised the issue again at a panel discussion Sunday and strongly criticized related government agencies.

Over the weekend, PM2.5 levels at 17 of 18 monitoring stations in Shenzhen exceeded the national daily average limit of 75 mcg per cubic meter, calling into question the claims on the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s website.

However, Shenzheners told local media they were glad to be in Shenzhen and not Beijing. Nine flights from Shenzhen Airport were canceled on Sunday because of the hazy weather in destinations such as Beijing and Tianjin.

In Dongguan, local newspaper the Dongguan Times ran a front page spread claiming that the air quality situation in the city is good, reported. Some netizens reacted with skepticism, others with pride.

One can never be too careful about these things. A report from Beijing University released last month concluded that PM 2.5 had sent 8,572 people to early graves in Guangzhou and three other major Chinese cities.

There is no good reason not to buy an air purifier.


(Home page photo credit: Shenzhen Standard)

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