Beijing air quality is like living in an airport smoking lounge

Beijing’s air quality has long been known to be unsafe, and has been over the World Health Organization’s “healthy” limit every day this year. A chart and report from Bloomberg show that it is in fact similar to the air inside an airport smoking lounge.

More: Beijing Air Akin to Living in Smoking Lounge: Chart of the Day -



    1. Tell us more about how “free market” Mitt Romney and government-run command economy China have in common.

  1. 2004 in Fairbanks was not a fun summer.  Visibility was often less than a mile and of course it smelled like a wet campfire everywhere.  But hey, it was all carbon-neutral pollution!

    1. I’d left by then, but I endured a few very smokey summers there myself. 

      Are you living there now, Ben? Friends tell me, and I have read, that now the air is bad all year because of the rise in popularity of outdoor wood and coal-fired boilers. Sounds awful. 

      1.  As a current Fairbanksan, I’ll attest to the air pollution that we endure through the winter.  Though quality does fluctuate wildly with temperature change.  Typically, as the mercury drops, so does the air quality –you remember ice fog don’t you?  Unregulated outdoor burners don’t help. 

        In the absence of wildfire smoke (2004 lives on as the local definition of “bad”) air quality is pretty darn nice during summer.

  2. Bit of an odd y-axis on the graph there – the level for zero pollution is well above the bottom – leaving some room in case they get some negative pollution data?.  It makes it look like the WHO are recommending air that’s half the level in a smoking lounge.

    1.  That’s a “feature” of many chart making applications that assume you want whitespace around all parts of the chart, even the bottom.

    1. Somebody already did.
      From the Deseret News

      “I feel like I am locking my children in a windowless room full of chain smokers,” said Udell, the founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air. “I feel claustrophobic, I feel frustrated and I feel angry at our political leaders for not taking action on what Utahns consider to be one of the most important issues for Utah’s future.”

      1. It’s pretty hard to cure a problem that’s the result of topography and climate.  Maybe they need to accept that God led them to a hell-hole instead of a promised land because he hates them.

  3. Where are the units? Are we measuring air quality in flying unicorns per cubic kilometer? Or perhaps per-capita coughs, in a laplace-filtered square-mile grid? (EDIT: Now I see some text on the units at the bottom – why not put it on the axis, where it belongs?)

    It also defies belief that a) we know these measurements to 4 decimal places, and b) that Fairbanks measured at EXACTLY 1000.0000 flying unicorns/km^3.

    I will withhold the lengthy rant I have inside, and say just this – poor data presentation erodes the credibility of the presenter and the data presented.

    Supporting reference for above statement:

  4. From 23 January 2013

    The greater Salt Lake region had up to 130 micrograms of soot per cubic meter on Wednesday, or more than three times the federal clean-air limit, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    I used the airnow site to verify this
    OK– that’s PM 2.5=116 (Unhealthy for sensitive groups), Ozone =14 (Good).

    On January 8, 2013, it was PM-2.5=155 (Unhealthy), Ozone-7 Good.

    This is unhealthy, and absurd, and embarrassing. But a PM2.5 of 155 is substantially less than Beijing (Beyond Index should give you a clue)

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