So, China’s air pollution problems are well documented. As residents here, we convince ourselves that we won’t die of lung cancer by the time we are thirty because the extreme pollution occurs up in the north-east of China, in the area’s around Beijing – China’s industrial heartland. Whilst the air quality in Nanjing is still terrible by European or North American standards, at least to the best of my knowledge it’s never been positively toxic, to the point where going outside for ten minutes will be tantamount to smoking 60 cigarettes, or quite possibly, worse (I made that figure up, I have no idea how many cigarettes it’s the equivalent to smoking… but to give some sort of perspective).
Well, it looks like “beautiful, historic” Nanjing – supposedly one of the nicer, cleaner cities in China is fast catching up with the rest of the country. Yesterday, the AQI for Nanjing (Air Quality Index) hit 498. The scale only goes up to 500. Also worth pointing out, that’s the official government figure, which is notorious for playing down the levels of pollution.
Having said that, this still isn’t terrible by Chinese standards, where the measurements have gone off the scale spectacularly in both Beijing and Harbin this year, hitting 1,000, or thereabouts, reducing visibility to a few metres or less, grinding both cities of 10 million+ residents to a standstill. But it’s still pretty horrific.
I opened my window this morning to take some pictures of the pollution, and could smell the toxins (whatever they may be) in the air. It was the same yesterday. It will probably be the same tomorrow.
Even the Nanjing Government has acted, closing all schools in the city as an emergency measure. Consequently, we are able to enjoy a “Pollution Day” today in Nanjing, unfortunately not quite as fun as a “Snow Day”, for we probably shouldn’t venture outside. But still, schools are closing, primary school children are apparently now getting lung cancer (in Nanjing) and the average life expectancy has already been reduced by at least 5.5. years in large parts of China, due to the heinous pollution.
China, I think you may have a problem. A big one.
I don’t quite know what effects this toxic air is going to have on my body in years to come. None of them I expect will be good. We never imagined it could be this bad when we arrived here sixteen months ago. Now, the more we know, the worse it gets, the more concerned we become.
Scary thing is; at least we have some idea about the air pollution. The government refuses to reveal the extent of soil and water contamination. Probably for the best, after all – what we don’t know, can’t hurt us, right? Well, that is until we get cancer and die prematurely. Pretty grim hey?
I used to moan about the grey skies and rain in Britain, but at least I knew it wasn’t slowly killing me. Oh how I long for home!