China Comment

Energy, Environment, and Economy

Olympic Pollution- Comparisons

Air quality in Beijing during the Olympics, according to the BBC, was actually quite clean. “Beijing met the strictest WHO standard for particulate matter in six out of the first 11 days of the Games.” Below, I examine just how good Beijing’s air quality was compared to air quality in previous games’ cities.

Pollution during the Beijing Olympics was rated on average 62 AQI for July 25 through August 24. Pollution was a 43 from the 18th through the 24th of August, according to the WSJ Beijing Air Quality Widget. (AQI is a composite number that includes measurements of ground-based ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter.) An AQI score of 43 would be considered green or safe in the United States, and yellow or fair in Canada.

To better understand the improvements Beijing made in its air quality, I present numbers from Runner’s Magazine’s September 2008 issue (page 96) which presented a comparative study of Olympic host cities’ pollution rates. The study measured average yearly concentrations of particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide (SD), and nitrogen dioxide (ND).

Note: Numbers below for “Beijing 2008” are pre-Olympics.

Particulate Matter
Montreal (1976)… 19
LA (1984)… 34
Barcelona (1992)… 35
Athens (2004)… 43
Beijing (2008)… 89
Beijing (DURING OLYMPICS)… 52-62
Safe Levels… 15-35
2004 EU Levels… 30
WHO Air Quality Target… 50

Sulfur Dioxide
Montreal (1976)… 10
LA (1984)… 9
Barcelona (1992)… 11
Athens (2004)… 34
Beijing (2008)… 90
Beijing (DURING OLYMPICS)… 10-14
Safe Levels… 20 (WHO Guidelines. p.414)

Nitrogen Dioxide
Montreal (1976)… 42
LA (1984)… 74
Barcelona (1992)… 43
Athens (2004)… 64
Beijing (2008)… 122
Beijing (DURING OLYMPICS)… 24-32
Safe Levels… 40
2004 EU Levels… Over 40

(numbers in micrograms per cubic meter)

Beijing appeared to do a good job on reducing Particulate Matter pollution. Beijing lowered its average PM10 pollution by nearly 40 points on average. However, Beijing still suffered more floating particulates than were present in previous Olympic host cities. On average, Beijing was over the “safe” limit by nearly 30 points. 

Beijing’s sulfur dioxide content, however, was notably lower than that of Athens in 2004 which put sulfur  dioxide pollution within safe levels. Still, the amount was higher than SO2 content in other previous Olympic host cities.

Perhaps the best pollution prevention news is that nitrogen dioxide pollution was down by 1/4th, and was much lower than NO2 pollution in previous Games-holding cities.

Conclusion

China effectively confronted pollution in Beijing, at least in the short term. As September arrives and factories and construction begin turning on and cars return to the road, Beijing’s usual smog will return. But with luck, Beijingers now enjoying clear skies might be motivated to adopt and promote further environmental measures.

For now though, let us celebrate Beijing’s clear skies and Olympic environmental-stopgap success.

Appendix

In English, here are district by district reports of air quality from the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau for August 23:

DISTRICT/ SULFUR/PARTICULATE MATTER/NITROGEN

    Dongsi Station in Dongcheng District 7 46 22
    Guanyuan Station in Xicheng District 10 39 22
    Tiantan Station in Chongwen District 9 48 25
    Wan Shou Station in Xuanwu District 8 52 17
    Olympic Sports Center Stadium in Chaoyang District 10 46 32
    Agriculture Exhibition Center Station in Chaoyang District 16 44 30
    Wanliu Station in Haidian District 11 46 27
    North Developping Area Station in Haidian District 9 51 8
    Botanical Garden Station in Haidian District 8 41 16
    Fengtai Town Station in Fengtai District 9 56 39
    Yungang Station in Fengtai District 9 51 8
    Gu Cheng Station in Shi Jingshan District 15 56 23
    Station in Yizhuang Developping Area 10 55 19
    Longquan Town Station in Men Tougou District 5 50 13
    Liangxiang Town Station in Fangshan District 8 53 31
    Tongzhou Town Station in Tongzhou District 5 54 13
    Renhe Town station in Shunyi District 5 39 7
    Dingling Station in Changping District 6 31 3
    Changping Town Station in Changping District 7 38 9
    Yellow village Station in Daxing District 17 58 18
    Yufa Station in Daxing District 5 61 14
    Pinggu Town Station in Pinggu District 5 48 5
    Huairou Town Station in Huairou District 5 29 5
    Miyun Town Station in Miyun County 7 28 4
    Miyun Reservoir Station 6 19 12
    Yanqing Town Station in Yanqing District 11 37 13
    Ba Daling Station in Yanqing County 7 24 19

 Particulate Matter Chart for Beijing: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7498198.stm

From the BBC

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25 August, 2008 - Posted by | China Environment/Health | , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. […] Olympic Pollution- Comparisons at China Comment […]

    Pingback by Posts of the Week: 8/18 - 8/24 | 1800blogger | 25 August, 2008

  2. […] Olympic Pollution- Comparisons at China Comment […]

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  3. Great post. I “flagged” this as keeper. I am hoping for the benefit of Chinese and Beijingers that they will make strong decisions to lower the levels in some sort of time frame. This showed how fast actually if only the private transport was lowered and moved to use public and those ineffective factories were shut down or equipped with BAT technology, Beijing would be happy place to live! The every other day license plate based no drive-thing is very drastic and cramped the public transport BUT it is good to keep in mind that such methods ARE in actual use regularly around the world to combat traffic jams and pollution. And knowing how technologically advanced Chinese can be, I am sure they can come up with some sort of traffic based billing method that punishes ppl at rush hour traffic (compare to London method and Stockholm). I am all in favor for this hopefully positive effect from Beijing Olympics 2008. :)

    Comment by kv | 27 August, 2008

  4. […] –Comparing pollution across Olympic host cities: Beijing came out favorably in terms of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, not so great when it came to particulate matter. [China Comment] […]

    Pingback by China Journal : Best of the China Blogs: August 29 | 29 August, 2008


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