China Air Quality Sacrificed for Economic Growth, Resulting in ‘Airpocalypse’


Earlier this month, the citizens of Beijing were exposed to record-breaking air pollution. On the 12th January, in many parts of the notoriously polluted city, PM2.5 particulate levels reached higher than 700 micrograms per cubic metre. The World Health Organisation considers a safe daily level of 25 micrograms per cubic metre. Internet users termed it the ‘airpocalyspe’.

PM2.5 is tiny particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres in size which can penetrate deep into the lungs and have serious adverse effects on human health. Accordingly, the Beijing centre advised children and elderly people to stay indoors, whilst shops sold out of anti-pollution masks and hospital wards were overrun with coughing patients. Officials blame the nauseating pollution levels on the single-minded pursuit of economic growth and a lack of government supervision in urban construction, as well as the lack of authority environmental regulators hold.

Since this episode, new measures have been proposed to combat pollution including increased fines for excessive vehicle emissions and factory shutdowns on particularly bad days. However, due to the sheer scale, diversity and dynamic nature of the sources of air pollution in Beijing, such as; power plants, small factories, vehicle emissions, coal burning and continuous construction, experts say Beijing residents may not be able to breathe freely for decades.

In the UK and internationally, REC’s Air Quality Consultants undertake Air Quality Assessments to ensure future site users are not exposed to elevated pollutant concentrations, as well as controlling emissions to acceptable levels. This process, which can include the use of detailed dispersion modelling assessments, helps protect communities from high pollution levels and associated health effects.

For more information on REC’s Services, please visit our Air Quality Assessment pages or contact us.