AQI–How does China Stack Up?

What is AQI  ?

The Air Quality Index is calculated using levels of five pollutants: ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. The AQI scale has six categories and ranges from 1 to 500. An AQI over 100 may be considered unhealthy for sensitive groups (people with asthma as well as heart conditions). A score over 150 is considered unhealthy for all groups (most people will start feeling the effects of poor air quality). Finally a score over 300 is considered hazardous and it is recommended that time outdoors be limited. According to the World Health Organization air pollution causes one in nine deaths worldwide. This  equates to over 1 million deaths from diseases related to air pollution in China each year.




Smog over Beijing

How is Ching cutting down its air pollution ?

The country has had draconian anti-pollution measures since 2013, when it introduced a set of prohibitions called the national action plan on air pollution. This imposed a nationwide cap on coal use, divided up among provinces, so that Beijing (for instance) had to reduce its coal consumption by 50% between 2013 and 2018. The plan banned new coal-burning capacity (though plants already in the works were allowed) and sped up the use of filters and scrubbers. These measures cut PM-2.5 levels in Beijing by more than a quarter between 2012-13, the time of the city’s notorious “airpocalypse”, and 2016. The measures were notable for being outright bans on polluting activities, rather than incentives to clean up production, such as prices or taxes.

Do the mask help ?

“The air is polluted with sulphur-dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter,” says Dr. Alok Thakar, Otorhinolaryngologist, AIIMS Delhi. “We generally concentrate on PM 2.5 and PM 10.” To keep our noses and lungs clear from the particulate matter, there are three types of masks that are being widely recommended – surgical masks, industrial air masks, and the N95 masks that are airtight.

Surgical masks are quite useless because they have air seeping in from all sides. It is just a handsfree version of handkerchiefs, he explains. Next, there are industrial air masks. These are definitely effective, but you would end up looking like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. The third one are the popular air masks – the N95 masks. They are airtight, portable and seem to have found some sort of a following. But they protect you from particulate matter alone. Other harmful gases are still in the air we breathe in even while wearing these masks.

Andrew Folse

MBA Candidate 2019


Is Air Pollution Killing 9 Million People Each Year?