This is not the latest news: from 2010 to 2011, the US embassy released that PM2.5 values in Beijing were estimated to be “beyond index”. This message raised widespread concern among the government, media, experts, as well as the public. The concept of PM2.5 also came into the eyes of normal citizens. People realized that the air pollutants measured before were at the PM10 level, namely the inhalable particles within the diameter of 10mm; while in the US and a few other countries, the standard also includes PM2.5. For many years, we have been inhaling innumerable tiny particles that reach deeply to our lungs and harm our health.
Criticism to Beijing’s air pollution measurement emerged from the public, despite the government and state-run media’s self-justification. In fact, the controversy can be seen as an eruption of Chinese citizens’ deep distrust to the authority’s information release. Having studied Beijing for years, I had my own experience of the air quality. One of the worst things was the choking sand, dust, and other pollutants all year round. When you are going walk or bike outside of the campus, you will want to wear a mask. Lines of cars that give out stink gases, coal-fired power plants, and vast construction sites that leave the sand and dust exposed to the air, are not hard to find. Haze has thus been common for Beijing residents. Rates of cancer and respiratory disease are rising.
Air pollution is one of the top concerns for Beijing’s environmental stress. The good news is that shortly after the US embassy’s report came out, Beijing’s municipal government started releasing new air pollution data from the beginning of 2012, which added the PM2.5 values in. Now people can also see the hourly announcement of Beijing’s PM2.5 level on its website. Although there are discrepancies between the air quality monitoring results from Beijing and the US Embassy, Beijing’s actions indicate a start to addressing the air quality while keeping the public and media informed. More importantly, people wish to see a more transparent and honest government behavior, which in turns impacts their own health and well-being.