What is the best way to combat air pollution?

By Xu Qinduo Source:Global Times Published: 2014-4-7 23:28:01

A recent report jointly issued by the Asian Development Bank and the Chinese government regarding China's environmental conditions reveals that only 1 percent of China's largest 500 cities reach the air quality standards set by the World Health Organization.

The main cause of such bad air quality in China, of course, is smog. PM2.5, particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less, is the key contributor to the formation of smog.

One post that has recently gone viral online says that living in an apartment over 30 meters above the ground is the best way to curb the impact of air pollution on your body, claiming that air gets fresher with height increases.

However, this is folly. According to Lu Haisheng, an engineer from a Ningbo-based environmental monitoring center, whenever an inversion layer, a major reason for air pollution, turns up in a city, the air quality becomes even worse at higher floors of a building, especially those above 30 meters high.

So, purchasing an apartment high above the ground might not be a wise choice in our anti-smog campaign. Then what about putting on an anti-PM2.5 face mask? Or even a gas mask? Are they really as effective as they seem?

If it is a professional gas mask, yes it is. But the majority of masks being sold in shops both online and offline are plain-looking regular ones. It's hard to test whether they work as well in practice as they claim.

In a sense, most of us are only taking chances. No wonder, there are all kinds of suggestions, such as keeping fit, staying indoors or installing an air cleaner, to ward off the pollutants.

These efforts, with a focus on protective measures, reveal the tremendous frustration on the side of the public in the face of increasing numbers of polluted days.

China's industrialization has been going on for decades and is believed to be the leading cause of heavy smog in many parts of the country.

For governments at different levels, the top priority of their work used to be economic growth, which is fully justifiable given how poor China was and how poor some parts of the country still are, even today.

But this approach has costs. The negative side of China being the "world's factory" is the sharp rise of environment problems, with pollution of the air, water and soil reaching an alarming level.

The Chinese government has made a hard decision to upgrade China's industrial structure and has set stricter rules to reduce pollution, including reduced industrial gas emissions.

The government is also investing heavily in new technologies to combat smog and reduce the heavy reliance on coal burning for energy consumption.

The government is doing its part to fight the battle against smog. What about the public?

There are areas in which we, as individuals, can contribute to the campaign to clean up our sky, in addition to efforts to protect ourselves, for instance, riding public transportation as much as possible instead of driving a car.

Remember, automobile exhaust has become a major air pollutant in more and more cities across the country.

On Saturday's Tomb-Sweeping Day, people could have, for instance, burned less of the special paper money for the dead, and instead presented a bouquet to their dead family members.

By changing our own behaviors, we help reduce pollution. Individual contributions might be minimal, but every bit counts.

Xu Qinduo, a commentator on current affairs with China Radio International

Posted in: Letters

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