New content on outdoor pollutants
Tuesday, 03 June 2008, Written by Julien   
Factory, chimney and smokeI have been writing this blog for more than 18 months already and I have gathered quite a significant knowledge base. However, blogging has one disadvantage: it is not easy to find the content wrote months ago! For example, did you remember this nice article on thermal inversion or this one on traffic policemen life expectancy .

Thus, I decided to make the information more directly available to the readers! The first step in this process is to publish the basic data I gathered along the way. You can know access a whole section on outdoor air pollution , listing the main pollutants, their origin and their impact on health. As usual, would you have any question, just comment the articles and I'll try my bet to bring you the answers!

Next, I will arrange all the data regarding the pollution indexes around the world (including pollution in Beijing).
Mark Donald wrote Pollution Indices:
Hi Julien, We met at beijinglug a couple of months ago, where you gave a presentation on some of this stuff... I remember you showed some slides of various indices in different countries, i... [more]
How to reduce your environmental impact?
Wednesday, 14 May 2008, Written by Trouni   
It is important to know how to protect oneself against pollution, but a protection as effective as it can be will never replace the need to reduce our emissions for the sake of the environment.
Pollution is a solvable issue. But when it comes to environmental matters, everyone has to take action. So, for those of you who decided not to wait here are some advices on how to reduce your environmental impact.

There are actually many things you can do and here is only a start:
  • Watch the film An Inconvenient Truth from Al Gore, it gives a general overview of the state of our planet,
  • Avoid using your car by walking, biking or taking mass transit wherever possible, you'll reduce your exposure to pollution as well as reducing your impact on the environment,
  • Think and live green (many other ideas here)
  • Talk around you and convince your friends to do the same!

Zuzana wrote Qs about Chinese pollution:
I am an international student at QSI International School of Bratislava, Slovakia, and I am currently writing a research paper on pollution in China. My research question is: How is pollutio... [more]
Zuzana wrote Qs about Chinese pollution 2:
5. How well informed are Chinese citizens informed about the consequences of pollution? Do they teach students about it in school? 6. What are the biggest contributors to pollution in Ch... [more]
fred wrote :
I can't believe people have the guts to ask you to do their homework... Will we get your degree as well Zuzana?
Eugene wrote :
Fred, there is nothing wrong in asking questions, if you would had your degree you would know that that kind of research is part of the studies.
Zuzana wrote :
I am in highschool, I am not getting a degree for this. I am writing a research paper for my geography class about pollution in China and I am supposed to interview professionals. I wasn't a... [more]
Conference on pollution tonight
Tuesday, 13 May 2008, Written by Julien   
Tonight, I will give a speech on pollution in Beijing to the Beijing Linux Users Group.
It's open to anyone! It is a great opportunity to learn more about pollution and about open sources softwares.
7 pm on Dongzhimen Nei Avenue. More information on the BLUG website .
smith wrote air qualty index:
Alas you are not in Shanghai! But please give us some more technical details on how is calculated your comparison between air quality indexes in China & in France. Thanks!
Julien wrote Coming soon:
Hi Smith, For this conference I made new graphs to compare the pollution in different cities around the world. Many people requested these graphs afterwards so I'll blog about that soon...
More pollution in a car than on a bicycle!
Monday, 05 May 2008, Written by Trouni   
If you live in Beijing or Shanghai, you probably already sat in a taxi during a smoggy day, watching people through the window riding their bicycle in the heavy pollution. Feeling safer in your cab, you pitied them since the air outside was so polluted.
Actually... you were more exposed to pollution than them!

A study shows that the mean concentration of fine particles inside a car could reach levels up to 25 times the WHO air quality guidelines. The main source of in-car air pollution is the vehicle in front of you since air intakes and exhaust pipes are located at the same level.

Even if driving with the windows closed and recirculating air settings could modestly reduce particle pollution exposure, it does not reduce most gaseous pollutants at all.

In terms of solutions, bicycle is definitely a better transportation mean in cities, since when you sit in a car:
Extremely high in-car pollution while in the traffic. Source: Le Journal du Dimanche
  • you are in the middle of the car traffic and so the air you breathe is extremely polluted,
  • you stay longer in the traffic during rush hours,
  • even if it might not have a direct impact on your health, pollution is generated by the car.
While riding a bike, you are higher than the traffic, you are not riding directly inside it, you are not stuck during rush hours (so you reduce your time of exposure), and you don't generate pollution. Even though efforts can be harmful for your lungs, you are still less exposed to pollution than in a car.

According to ICTA's "In-car pollution" report: concentrations of benzene reach levels inside automobiles nearly two-and-a half times higher than in the air breathed by bicyclists.

A car doesn't protect you from pollution, it exposes you even more!

Sources: Le Journal du Dimanche (French), Xinhua, ICTA In-car pollution report
Dawn wrote :
Wow, thanks for the info. I always assumed "in-car" air was safer...
Are surgical masks effective against pollution?
Friday, 25 April 2008, Written by Trouni   

You might have seen many Chinese wearing surgical masks in the streets to protect themselves against pollution and you probably already asked yourself: are these masks really effective against air pollution?

These masks are not suited against pollution and the main reason is simple: these masks are designed to protect others from droplets you might spread.

When these masks are tested, the filtration is measured from the air you exhale and not the one you breathe in. Even if they can slightly reduce the risk of infections through droplets, they are definitely not a suitable solution against air pollution.

Quoting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

20061201-img_3300_small.jpg”Facemasks are loose-fitting, disposable masks that cover the nose and mouth. These include products labeled as surgical, dental, medical procedure, isolation, and laser masks.
Facemasks help stop droplets from being spread by the person wearing them. They also keep splashes or sprays from reaching the mouth and nose of the person wearing the facemask. They are not designed to protect you against breathing in very small particles. Facemasks should be used once and then thrown away in the trash.“

If you are sick during a flu pandemic you should definitely wear a facemask to prevent the spreading of the virus. But otherwise, if you are seeking effective protection against a polluted environment or a flu pandemy, you will definitely need a respiratory mask.
frederic muller wrote thanks for the research:
I was always wondering whether it was worth wearing those. I think for some Chinese actually it's quite useful, it protects us from their spit ;)
Julien wrote Re: Fred:
Hi Fred, you are right that spitting is not good to avoid spreading diseases. That's why it was forbidden by Chinese Government during SARS crisis. However, the situation improved greatly ov... [more]
Chris D wrote :
"the situation improved greatly over the last few years to prepare for the Olympics"... uh huh...
Brede wrote :
Don't think it's improving. Just back from Shanghai; 4 days and I never saw the sky once not to mention sun. Pollution hanging so low in air that I could not see the tops of buildings unle... [more]
bjorn wrote ha ha:
wel we can all agree that china su*** ;)
Measures for green Olympics
Thursday, 17 April 2008, Written by Trouni   
"We will do everything possible to honor the promise"
(Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing's Environmental Protection Bureau)

Beijing announced last monday some measures that will be taken against pollution to bring "green games" to the athletes this summer. The measures will officially be in effect for two months (from July 20 to Sept. 20) and will include:
  • two-months halt of construction (even spray painting outdoors will be banned)
  • traffic restriction to ban half of Beijing's 3.3 million vehicles during the Olympics (Aug. 8-24)
  • 19 heavy polluting factories will be forced to either reduce pollution emissions by 30 percent or stop activity

Since most of Beijing's pollution is due to emissions from surrounding provinces, Du Shaozhong also mentionned that some of these measures will also take effect in five provinces and municipalities around Beijing (Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong and Inner Mongolia).

Olympic athletes (source:

During the press conference, Du Shaozhong also said:
"Just tell everybody they don't have to worry."

Well, I guess athletes and tourists don't have to worry for the games period, but what about Beijingers like me who are still exposed to heavy pollution everyday?

Sources: International Herald Tribune, Aujourd'hui la Chine (article in French)
Frederic Muller wrote solutions:
Wear a mask? ;-)
Frederic Muller wrote no one else care?:
I'm surprised nobody else commented on this. I've been thinking about my short (and stupid) comment to a very serious issue. First there will be more competitions after August 24th, so does ... [more]
Chris D wrote :
Fred, in response to your second post, I think the unofficial or unwritten policy here is people, in general, are expendable. The Olympics brings with it international attention and scrutin... [more]
Frederic Muller wrote :
what a sad world we live in...
Mandy wrote Reader from Hong Kong:
Hi Author, I am glad to know that a foreigner like you, can devote such a large effort in concerning the pollution problem in our China land. I am now undertaking a environmental managemn... [more]
A leap forward!
Thursday, 27 March 2008, Written by Julien   
There has been a leap forward for this week! We now offer you a solution for fighting pollution while on polluted streets: Respro anti-pollution masks!
Just check out our catalogue , chose your mask and get it!buymask6.png The other major change that occured this week is the repair of Beijing air comparator. You can again know how bad the air in Beijing is!
Esprit wrote :
Hello I am french and i would like 499 chinese money ---> .... en euro??
Julien wrote :
Hi, try the following link: 499 yuans in euros If you want to compare the pric... [more]
Sandstorms also caused by human activity?
Friday, 14 March 2008, Written by Trouni   

As Melanie mentionned in her comment on the previous article, it often happens that sandstorms hit East Asia (China but also Korea and Japan) during this time of the year. The "yellow dust" from the Gobi Desert is blown eastward over China and thus contributes to air pollution in major cities like Beijing, by increasing the concentration of dust and particles.


In fact, NASA just uploaded on one of its website (Earth Observatory/Natural Hazards, already mentionned in this article) an interesting satellite image showing a dust storm over East Asia that happened on March 1.


Dust storm over East Asia - Nasa Natural Hazards

On this picture, you can clearly see the cloud of tan-colored dust passing just south from Beijing. And by checking the graph posted a few days ago, you can also see the sandstorm's impact on Beijing's air quality: a pollution peak (API of 127) appears around March 1.

You might think that even nature contributes to air pollution in China, but actually, it seems like human activities strongly increased the occurence of dust storms (from once every 31 years until 1949 to once a year since 1990).

The municipal meteorological observatory forecast about 10 days of sandy weather in the capital city this spring... (source: Xinhua)

Update (18 March 2008):
A sandstorm hits Beijing today, bringing once again pollution to an unreached level this year, with an API of 305 according to the Beijing Environmental Bureau.

melanie gao wrote :
Wow, the NASA view of the storm is amazing.
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