Air Quality in Urban China Is Often Worse Than Smoking Areas in Airports

Photo by Zhanyanguange. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Zhanyanguange. Some rights reserved.

Here in Seattle, especially around this time of year when snow may be in the mix, a lot of folks will end up checking Cliff Mass’ Weather Blog for laser-accurate and regionally specific updates on the weather of Puget Sound (and beyond). The local weather guru has been at it for years and offers much deeper and more thoughtful insight into weather patterns and trends than your average local news station. In fact, I started checking Cliff Mass’ blog again this week as rumors and whispers of snow have been whipping up over the last week, and it lead me to this disconcerting post.

In short, Mass compares a study done by the CDC last year of nine large US airports to determine what effect a designated smoking area will have on air quality in and surrounding the area itself. It comes as no surprise that airports with smoking areas were found to have worse overall air quality, but what is extremely disconcerting is that Mass then compares the figures from this study with recent air quality data from China’s largest and most industrialized cities. Now, we’ve talked about air quality in China before so we know that the air quality in most Chinese cities is far from ideal. But Mass’ report indicates that many Chinese cities have particulate levels well above what you’d find in a smoking lounge or bar in a U.S. airport. For instance, the air quality rating (by particulates per cubic meter) in Beijing on the day of measurement was 327 micrograms per cubic meter, while Changdou, Suzhou, and Nanjing all reported numbers above 300 micrograms per cubic meter (311, 325, and 351 respectively). Meanwhile, while Shanghai only reported 168 micrograms per cubic meter that day (under the reported average for smoking-permitted areas in airports in that CDC report, which was 276.9), but as Mass points out, Shanghai has reported days in which its total has surpassed 600 micrograms per cubic meter, so it seems Shanghai just got lucky on the date of measurement.


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