For one day, Lon­don’s smog read­ing was greater than Bei­jing’s

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICA -

Lon­don is fa­mous for its fog, but this week it was smog that made the head­lines as the city’s air pol­lu­tion lev­els sur­passed those in Bei­jing, well, at least for a day.

The com­par­i­son be­tween the two cities was first made on Sun­day by Si­mon Bir­kett, who runs the Clean Air Lon­don cam­paign, ac­cord­ing to the Green­peace web­site.

The Air Qual­ity In­dex (http://aqicn. org), based in Bei­jing, em­ploys of­fi­cial air-qual­ity data pro­vided by en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion agen­cies in some 70 coun­tries. It com­pares those num­bers to a scale used by the US EPA, and the data are pub­lished in real time.

Read­ings at 3 pm on Mon­day showed that some lo­ca­tions in the Bri­tish cap­i­tal had higher par­tic­u­late lev­els than in China’s cap­i­tal. Lon­don’s Wil­liam Hen­nelly air on Mon­day af­ter­noon con­tained 197 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter for par­tic­u­late mat­ter (PM2.5). In Bei­jing, the read­ing was 190.

On Tues­day morn­ing, the UK De­part­ment for En­vi­ron­ment Food and Ru­ral Af­fairs said that air pol­lu­tion lev­els for the Greater Lon­don area were still “very high”. The read­ing in Lon­don on Tues­day for fine par­tic­u­late mat­ter was 157, higher than Shang­hai’s but lower than Bei­jing’s.

The sur­pris­ing com­par­i­son didn’t last long, though. On Thurs­day, Bei­jing clocked a 408, which is haz­ardous and means stay in­doors, while Lon­don set­tled down to an ac­cept­able 91.

In Lon­don, the cul­prits for the bad air are wood-burn­ing stoves and au­to­mo­bile traf­fic, ex­ac­er­bated by mild wind con­di­tions, ac­cord­ing to King’s Col­lege in Lon­don. The school es­ti­mates that 9,400 Lon­don­ers die pre­ma­turely ev­ery year due to air pol­lu­tion.

More than 1 mil­lion Lon­don homes have wood burn­ing stoves, and 175,000 new ones are in­stalled each year, ac­cord­ing to The Tele­graph. De­mand for the stoves has jumped as cus­tomers look to pare their en­ergy costs.

Lon­don Mayor Sadiq Khan is­sued the high­est-pos­si­ble air pol­lu­tion alert in the city for the first time on Mon­day, and said on Tues­day that the city’s “filthy air” is a “health cri­sis”.

“We’re de­liv­er­ing the strong­est emis­sion mea­sures to clean up our bus fleets, charg­ing for the dirt­i­est most toxic diesels and bring­ing for­ward and then ex­tend­ing the Ul­tra Low Emis­sion Zone,” Khan said in a state­ment on lon­don.gov.

“The gov­ern­ment ur­gently need to do their bit. They need to de­volve more pow­ers to Lon­don and in­tro­duce a na­tional diesel scrap­page scheme to rid our streets of the dirt­i­est ve­hi­cles,” the mayor said.

“They also need to re­form ve­hi­cle ex­cise duty and bring in a new Clean Air Act that fi­nally tack­les this prob­lem and means that Lon­don­ers don’t have to be afraid of the air we breathe,” Khan said.

Areeba Hamid, clean air cam­paigner for Green­peace, said: “Air pol­lu­tion is a blight on Lon­don, so it is hugely en­cour­ag­ing to see the mayor pri­or­i­tiz­ing this is­sue. … But we also need to see ac­tion na­tion­ally to tackle the im­pact of diesel fumes on pub­lic health.”

Un­for­tu­nately, smog is not new to Lon­don. The Great Smog of 1952 was caused by cold weather com­bined with a lack of wind that led to a con­cen­tra­tion of air­borne par­tic­u­lates, mainly from coal burn­ing. The smog lasted five days in De­cem­ber be­fore dis­pers­ing when the weather changed.

As many as 12,000 peo­ple were es­ti­mated to have died from The Great Smog’s ill ef­fects on the hu­man res­pi­ra­tory sys­tem.

In China, more than half of the cities mon­i­tored by the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion re­ported air pol­lu­tion Wed­nes­day.

About 57.8 per­cent of Chi­nese cities mon­i­tored by the min­istry, in­clud­ing Bei­jing, re­ported vary­ing de­grees of air pol­lu­tion, ac­cord­ing to real-time data on the min­istry’s web­site.

Of the 338 cities mon­i­tored, 7.1 per­cent, in­clud­ing Shi­ji­azhuang, the cap­i­tal of North China’s He­bei prov­ince, re­ported se­ri­ous air pol­lu­tion, with air qual­ity in­dex read­ings ex­ceed­ing 300 as of Wed­nes­day.

An­other 12.8 per­cent of the cities, in­clud­ing Tian­jin, were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing heav­ily pol­luted air, with AQI read­ings be­tween 201 and 300, said the min­istry.

Con­tact the writer at williamhen­nelly@chi­nadai­lyusa. com

REUTERS

Se­na­tor Marco Ru­bio (left) and Nikki Ha­ley em­brace af­ter US Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence (cen­ter) swore Ha­ley in as the US am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions at the Eisen­hower Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice Build­ing in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day.

WIKIMEDIA COM­MONS XIN­HUA

Left: The Xi­dan district in Bei­jing is cov­ered with haze and fog on Jan 1. Right: Early morn­ing mist and smog rises at Lon­don’s Ca­nary Wharf in 2014.

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