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Air Pollution in Beijing

Apart from the positive influence, the rapid development of technologies has negative consequences on cities as well. These advantageous miracles affect the environmental state of the area impacting the health and lifespan of its citizens. This paper aims to explore the issue of environmental concern, air pollution in particular, of Beijing, the capital of China.

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Moreover, it will also discuss ways to reduce air pollution including smog. In order to achieve this goal, the paper will analyze newspaper articles and academic literature to determine the main reasons and facts that impact the atmospheric state and their influence on people’s health in the selected area. The analysis of this research will be followed by discussion and conclusions.

Air Pollution Overview

Air quality is considered to be the main prerequisite that is required for humans to be healthy. However, in many countries, air pollution, smog, in particular, is becoming a more widespread and significant threat to people’s health. World Health Organization conducted thorough research on the assessment of the diseases that are associated with air pollution. Thus, more than two million people died prematurely because of the effects of indoor and outdoor atmospheric pollution, and most of the deaths happened due to solid fuel burning (5). Not surprisingly, numerous organizations are trying to find the causes of the problem and ways to solve it.

Within the framework of the research, the World Health Organization also reports that more than half of those who died because of air pollution were the residents of various developing countries (WHO 5). Nevertheless, the citizens of not only these states are suffering. Being well-developed industrially, Beijing is one of the victims of severe air pollution, specifically of smog, or ammonia, and other unnoticeable particles in the air that are also harmful to people’s health.

The examples of ammonia “red alerts” and general air pollution state in Beijing are spread throughout the media. For instance, one should consider the first red alert in December 2015 and its impact on the lives of Chinese people, which resulted in the closure of schools and cessation of the production of various factories (“China Pollution”; Wilson; “The Guardian View”). In addition, traffic also stopped that day. The authorities advised not to use cars, according to Sudworth and promised to provide the public with additional transportation means in order to cope with the demand for the high quantity of passengers.

In the morning, the red alert pollution level reached 291 mcg/m? of PM 2.5 and decreased later to 250 mcg/m?. However, according to the guidelines of the World Health Organization, a normal and recommended level is only 25 mcg/m? (“China Pollution”). It is significant to inform the public on these findings not only in the city of Beijing but internationally in order to avoid repeating the same mistake.

The mentioned above PM 2.5, or particulate matter, that is noticeable almost everywhere is one of the specific indicators of air pollution, and it is quite common along with sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3). These are considered as the main air pollutants, based on which the level of atmospheric pollution is measured. They determine the effect of pollution on human health in every country (WHO 7). PM 2.5 is particulate matter defined with the equivalents of 2.5 microns. These pollutants are bought as a mixture of various chemicals that have different environmental impacts (“Guidelines on the Estimation”).

The hazards of PM 2.5 are connected with the impact of PM on people’s health, which is mainly associated with breathing problems and other symptoms related to respiratory system of individuals that are sensitive to atmospheric changes concerning air constituents. Furthermore, there are certain health effects, which resulted from the impact of air pollution on the cardiopulmonary system of elderly people (“U.S. Department”). In general, increased respiratory distress and other similar effects of PM 2.5 and smog are the major health problem.

Respiratory disease is considered to be the consequence of PM2.5 within the frames of the WTO air-quality guidance. For the aforementioned reasons, it is not advised for some people living in Beijing, especially children, to stay outside. In case of hazardous effects of PM 2.5, people have to deal with some serious aggravations, such as lung or heart diseases. Thus, one can observe the increased mortality rate among those who suffer from cardiopulmonary or various respiratory diseases.

Air Pollution Data Issue

Apart from actual pollution, there exists another problem that is inevitably connected to air pollution in Beijing. It is a lack of reliable information about the issue and adequate systems of measuring, preventing, and mitigating it. As a rule, it is rather difficult to receive necessary information from the municipal authorities as they require a certain official request letter. In addition, it usually takes a couple of days in order to send it to the person who ordered the information the data. Moreover, it is usually easier to receive the information for the non-governmental organization representative than for an ordinary citizen. When the “red alert” happens, people tend to believe journalists who describe the problem from the insider’s point of view.

Also, the public usually accepts information that is presented on the website of the foreign missions, for instance, those of the USA, more positively. They tend to trust foreign donors that use technologically advanced equipment more than the local municipalities. It helps citizens to be aware of the air pollution level including the problem of smog as well as react faster taking the results based on the indicators into account. There is also the issue of explaining the health effects and cautionary statements concerning air pollution.

Analyzing the issues associated with the causes of air pollution and health effects, Wang et al. decided that it was essential to explore the data on the issue. According to the authors, data gathered from different sources differ due to various approaches and technologies. Trying to estimate the citywide air pollution in the Chinese capital, Wang et al. delineated the presence of discrepancies in the reports prepared by the government municipalities and the observations that were recorded and further presented by the United States Embassy in Beijing (e53400).

The issue of air pollution and smog is very complex as its causes can be different, and the data on its level may vary depending on the time. Thus, it is essential to apply the method known as Single Point Areal Estimation (SPA) in order to draw the corresponding conclusions on the PM2.5 concentration (Wang et al. e53400). This technique can help to analyze the empirical data based on the information received from both the Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau in Beijing and the observation station of the US Embassy, for example. The application of such a method of exploration can prove any research to be unbiased.

Still, considerable progress was made in terms of changing the situation by raising awareness. To inform people about air pollution, help them envisage the whole picture of danger, and make them aware of the measures to take if the level of pollution increases, the information that is presented provides help in form of the following air-quality indexes on the United States Mission website. Air quality can be “good”, which is 0 to 50 particulates; “moderate” that amounts to 100 matters; “unhealthy for sensitive groups”, which reaches the level of 150 matters; “unhealthy for the group” that is 50 particulates more.

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Moreover, there is the indicator that is called “very unhealthy,” about 300 PMs; and the one that is considered “hazardous” amounts to 500 particulates. Finally, the last category is PM2.5 that goes “beyond the index” (“U.S. Department”). Such a measuring system assists in making the public more environmentally conscious of the smog problem.

The guideline depicts a gradation of color in order to illustrate each level of air quality index as well. That is why many mass media use the names of colors for the levels of pollution. For example, “red” line titles, which stand for the unhealthy level of air quality index, were often used by international mass media in December 2015 (“China Pollution”). Thus, everybody knew that adults and children and those people who suffer from respiratory diseases should not stay long outside, and children, in particular, should stay inside and avoid engaging in any outdoor activities. It is vital to keep the public aware of the state of air pollution and to explain to the population the steps that have to be taken in case the level of air quality decreases.

Causes and Effect of Air Pollution

There is a multitude of various causes of PM 2.5. However, the main factor contributing to the appearance of particulate matters is both direct and indirect vehicle emissions in the districts around Beijing. Moreover, pollution and industrial emissions are considered to be the most significant pollutants that produce a high concentration of PM 2.5 of air quality index and create smog. The climate of the region, which is very humid, is another contributive factor. In addition to the effects of high humidity, the absence of wind allows PM 2.5 to settle faster than in the other parts of the world where climate appears to be more favorable.

Another reason is heavy traffic, in which the municipalities of the capital of China still do not fight effectively. During the instances of “red alerts”, the schools closed because of the absence of good air filtration systems, which allowed the car emissions to enter the schools. Representing the BBC News, Sudworth also explains why Beijing reaches the red line recently. He mentioned heating systems and coal-powered industries presented in the city. In addition, vehicle emissions and dust from various sites that are being constructed was also a very strong reason for smog (“China Pollution”). In general, the combination of these factors provoked the red light alert and ammonia pollution in general.

There are many health effects that stem from the high level of air pollution problems. In Beijing, however, it mainly impacts the problems related to the respiratory system, such as bronchitis and asthma. Moreover, many patients have also difficulties with breathing, which often cause lung cancer. Such organizations as the International Agency for Research on Cancer and Cancer Research UK consider air pollution to be the main reason for the increase of lung cancer cases (Reynolds).

Taking into consideration the health effects of smog, Guo et al. found it vital to investigate the issue of air pollution from a different perspective. They analyzed the impact of PM on the death rate of the citizens of Beijing and years of life lost (YLL) in order to find the connections between mortality and the air pollutants’ impact on health (f7139). The research demonstrated that the lives lost in the Chinese capital are directly associated with the increase in air pollution. Thus, the authors emphasized the severity of the problem and necessity to work on the reduction of air pollution and smog in China and its capital in particular in order to protect the health of its citizens.

Apart from health and life expectancy associated with the implications of ammonia, there are also other negative effects of air pollution on the standards of living of the citizens. Being a second-largest economy in the world in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), China became the biggest energy consumer in the world in 2009 (Chen et al. 1960). Such fast economic growth provoked active energy consumption of GDP per capita, and in general, the consumption rate was 1.4 times higher compared to the world’s average (Chen et al. 1960). Taking into account the fact that coal is considered the main source of energy in China, its consumption has one of the biggest impacts on the environment and peoples’ health.

In addition to coal being one of the obvious reasons for air pollution, traffic pollution, and biomass smoke make a considerable impact on people’s health (Laumbach and Kipen 3-11). A direct connection of air pollution to different diseases, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, allergic reactions, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is quite evident. Moreover, epidemiological studies prove the effect of traffic and its relation to pollution in both developed and developing countries. However, less developed countries tend to use more biomass fuels and, thus, suffer more (Laumbach and Kipen 3-11); therefore, it is essential to keep the public aware of the impact of the choice of such fuels on their health.

Emissions have a direct impact on health depending on the distance to the source and ventilation in the building. However, it is possible to prevent air pollution from the mentioned sources in order to avoid the exacerbation of the respiratory disease. It is also possible to avoid high levels of traffic air pollutants and biomass explosions by encouraging awareness among people of the reasons why they may have such problems with their respiratory systems and what they should do within their communities to progress in addressing the issue.

Change of blood pressure is another rather severe impact of smog on people’s health. Wu et al. (66-72) measured the blood pressure of 39 university students before and after going to classes to and from the suburbs. There is a clear connection between the blood pressure of students to the constituents of specific PMs in the air. In order to minimize the risks to the public health, strategic decision-makers not only in Beijing but in other cities as well should consider this factor when constructing new campuses.

Ways to Mitigate the Issue

The issue of air pollution in Beijing acquired both local and global nature. On the global level, it affects other nations as the air does not have any boundaries; thus, it affects at least the neighboring territories. Additionally, it affects the decisions of other nations and governments regarding China within the frames of international relations. On the local level, it has a direct impact on the health and mortality rate of the citizens.

Since air and other types of pollution have been burning issues for discussion and exploration by different research agencies and organizations, there are certain guidelines that need to be followed in order to obey the general law and follow the air pollution restrictions. The World Health Organization’s guidelines on the indexes of air pollution levels are a particularly useful instrument that should help to prevent the deaths of many people. It is crucial for every country to follow them in order to meet the international standards regarding air emissions and other types of pollution.

It could also help to keep the public aware of the problem and allow bringing the information to the attention of policymakers in order to provide them with a solid background on the problem in their decision-making processes around the entire world. Understanding these guidelines helps to acquire the universal understanding of the meaning of the terms depending on the reported level of PM 2.5 constituents. The international indicators of air pollution demonstrate the danger within the borders of the country, and then other international organizations can address the issue.

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As the research has demonstrated, the data from the local air pollution agencies and international organizations or missions differ. On the one hand, one can think that it is due to different mechanisms and technologies used in order to measure air pollution. On the other hand, the internal disclosure issues and the unwillingness of governments to demonstrate the true results can be viewed as the possible causes. There are several reasons for that. The first is associated with the governments not being eager to show the information to the world in order to not present themselves at a lower level. On the other hand, they do not want to demonstrate to their citizens the real level of danger they are facing. Finally, the third reason may include different perspectives related to the methods of data analysis that vary from country to country.

The best solution for this problem is to disclose the reported information, which will help the citizens to react accordingly. It will also provide the researches with an opportunity to explore the area and consider all the challenges they might face during the course of their study. Only when the data from the local agencies and international missions based on the World Health Organization’s indicators will be the same, the agreement on the international level and local governments’ understanding of the ways of addressing this environmental issue will be reached.

Many can argue about the work of governments and the quality of environmental information. However, much depends upon the people themselves. Humans are all consumers by nature. Everybody should limit themselves and use the only necessary resources. It is important not only to respect nature in one’s own yard, but it is vital not to pollute the surrounding areas. Indeed, many things depend on the solution that the governments present; however, personal awareness and environmentally friendly behavior are integral parts of addressing the issues.

Sometimes, it is more helpful to use public transportation than a personal car to go to work or study. Moreover, it is also a good idea to carpool, which was actually invented in the US when people started taking children from neighboring areas in one car and bringing them to schools or kindergartens. Additionally, people can consider the idea of buying one car for a couple of families as the Germans usually do. That is even technologically and environmentally smarter: only one car is used by three or four families at the same time.

Urbanization should be also considered while planning the parts of Beijing. There should be paid more attention to the construction of the university campus sites in the suburbs in order to ensure that the students do not suffer from smog while studying at the universities. Furthermore, research was conducted regarding the connections between blood pressure and air pollution. However, all types of diseases can be explored in order to find relations between people’s health and the evident negative effects of air pollution.

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Mass media should be able to express freely on the issue of the air pollution levels and smog as much depends on the awareness of people of the situation. Taking into account the analyzed studies and the fact that the data of the international and national air pollution agencies differ, it can be stated that the local governments have a direct impact on the local mass media being able to present their own information but not the international one. Only when people are aware of the exact situation regarding the level of air pollution, they can act accordingly to protect themselves and their families. It also proves that different governmental organizations should work more efficiently in order to inform the public on the ways to improve their health and avoid suffering.

People should be aware that it is their responsibility to notice the differences in their health and address the issues by visiting doctors as soon as possible. Moreover, it is their responsibility to change their living style affected by smog. At the same time, parents are responsible for setting the timeframes for the outdoor activities with their children and observing any differences in mood and physical health of their offspring. In addition, they should remember to spend the weekends outside of the capital and find the most appropriate methods of recreation within the city.

There should be also various environmental campaigns and public awareness courses targeting the audience of different ages, from kindergarten to high school. Moreover, students should have the possibility to be involved in the non-governmental environmental organizations and to be able to influence the decision-making processes to promote their environmentally friendly views fighting the consumerism ideas.


The issue of air pollution in Beijing is very important to the entire world. Thus, it should be addressed on the international level by the governments of other countries as well. That is why different mass media should talk about this environmental problem, and more research should take place concerning the issues of air pollution in the capital of China. The country and Beijing, in particular, are technologically advanced and influential on the international level.

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Nevertheless, they face the environmental problem of air pollution that impacts every citizen’s health in the capital and suburbs. Different measures from various perspectives should be taken in order to address and solve this problem. Every individual should realize that trying to place the responsibility on somebody else will never lead to success; each person should be equally involved in trying to achieve the desired results.

Air pollution and smog, in particular, affect human health causing lung cancer and different respiratory diseases. For example, asthma is one of the most frequent ailments. Thus, it is vital to spread this information in order to make every citizen of Beijing aware of the issue and health impact of air pollution. It is possible to solve this environmental problem with the help of international cooperation and by the means of attracting more scholars and experts in order to explore the problem. It is possible to change the direction of technology development and use them for the benefit of society.

However, it is impossible to achieve that without openness, patience, and optimism; change of lifestyle plays a significant role as well. It is obvious that China is in need of industrial development, which would improve its economy and status on the international level in general. However, the pollution levels caused by industry must be taken into consideration in the process. Thus, only cooperative efforts can save Beijing and the health of its citizens. The world can provide the country with instruments to achieve prosperity industrially, but the country’s personal desire to develop environmentally is the main prerequisite for the nation’s health.