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.
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
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)
(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.
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.
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