The pictures above are the view from my window several weeks ago, during a bout of bad pollution. In Beijing, the Air Quality Index (a measurement of the concentration of unhealthy pollutants in the air) regularly rises above 300 and sometimes gets above 400 – I would estimate that in the last two months the pollution has been this bad at least 7 or 8 times. After an area’s AQI rises above 200 or so, official notifications begin to move from “unhealthy for sensitive individuals” to simply “unhealthy for everyone.” For a comparison with the U.S., AirNow.Gov says:
In many U.S. communities, AQI values are usually below 100, with higher values occurring just a few times a year. Larger cities typically have more air pollution than smaller cities, so their AQI values may exceed 100 more often. AQI values higher than 200 are infrequent, and AQI values above 300 are extremely rare—they generally occur only during events such as forest fires.
If you’re ever curious about Beijing’s current AQI, check out BeijingAir on Twitter. So now that you’re on Twitter, Mom, you can worry about my health every day.