In response to a practical protest by Chinese citizens worried about levels of air pollution, China’s government has announced a plan to measure and limit the amount of small particle pollution in the country’s air. It all started last May when a Chinese citizen purchased a $4,000 air quality monitor and started posting daily pollution levels on the internet. That move caused a domino effect and monitors were purchased across the country by citizens concerned about the air they were breathing. The citizen-action caused the demise of China’s government propaganda about the quality of their air. Where last year the government was touting 274 “blue sky days”, this year they’ve promised to do their own monitoring, saying that they will institue new health standards as soon as possible.
The first air quality monitor was set up in Beijing, with others following in Shangai, Guangzhou, Wenzhou and Wuhan. The wave of independent air monitoring came as a reaction to the central government’s inability to accept that the air quality in China was unhealthy — even as international organizations tried to reveal the truth and called for a reduction of pollution levels across China. Activists say those “blue sky days” the Chinese government was applauding were actually grey sky days caused not by mother nature’s clouds, but by clouds of pollution in the air.
The Chinese government has now agreed to monitor urban pollution — considered particulates of 2.5 microns in diameter or less — in 30 major cities this year with 80 other cities following in suit next year. The Ministry of Environmental Protection now will set health standards for fine particulates in the immediate future and has started releasing data from its Beijing monitoring station on an hourly basis — this comes after years of keeping the data secret. Last year the American Embassy in China started releasing their own readings about Beijing air pollution due to concern over health issues, the data has since spread like wildfire across the country.
The fine particulates that will soon start to be measured are generally referred to as PM 2.5 and are caused by vehicle emissions, coal combustion, factory emissions and the construction business, and cause serious respiratory and cardiovascular issues as well as lung cancer. Activists are hoping that the change of tide within the Chinese Government will allow for a better future for air pollution standards but some aren’t sure. Some experts worry that the government will keep lying about data and that links between health and air pollution might still be shrouded. Though the government’s recent announcements are a step in the right direction, some are still saying they’ll believe it when they see it.