Kunming to start monitoring air quality
The front-page headline in today’s Spring City Evening News: “Kunming will begin measuring PM 2.5.” PM stands for “particulate matter.” According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), particles pose a health risk if they are less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM 10), because they can be inhaled into the respiratory system, where they will accumulate. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM 2.5) are known as “fine” particles, and pose the greatest health risks.
The US Embassy in Beijing has since 2008 been monitoring air quality in the Beijing by taking hourly PM 2.5 readings and posting them online on their Twitter feed, @BeijingAir. The Twitter feed offers descriptions of Beijing air, such as “bad,” “hazardous,” and “crazy bad,” and has nearly 20,000 followers. Yet last week, a Chinese government official declared it illegal for the US to be posting these readings. His argument: It breaks international law under the Vienna convention, and interferes in internal affairs.
The Chinese government posts its own air readings, which are not considered very reliable by any third parties. As The Guardian points out, “official forecasts often predict light pollution even when the city is shrouded in haze – actual data is only issued 24 hours later.” Wu Xiaoqing, China’s deputy minister of the environment told a press conference: “China’s air quality monitoring and information release involve the public interest and are up to the government.” He said that the US Embassy taking air quality measurements for their own internal purposes was fine, but that, “They can’t release this information to the outside world.”
The US has so far refused to stop posting the air quality readings.
Links and Sources
Spring City Evening News: 昆明开测PM2.5
The Guardian: China warns foreign embassies publishing smog readings is illegal
US EPA: PM 2.5 NAAQS Implementation