Residents of Harbin, China have been seen walking through the city’s ashy streets wearing surgical masks due to pollution levels that are visible from outer space. Children have been kept home from school and the sick and elderly warned to remain inside. The images shown of the northeastern city resembled eerie photographs taken of nuclear fallout, and pictures taken by NASA’s Suomi-NPP satellite show parts of the country barely visible under a cloak of toxic smog.
The WHO avows that measurements of the most minute pollution particles, PM2.5, should reach no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter. Tests done at the United States embassy in Beijing recorded levels as high as 500 micrograms per cubic meter. The city of Harbin, in northeastern China has reported pollution concentrations of up to 1000 micrograms. Particulates are tiny particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller, which upon entry into the lungs, cause breathing and respiratory issues.
The World Health Organization has issued a statement saying that the air pollution in Beijing is 20 times higher than the maximum safe level. This is a catastrophic problem that is decreasing the life expectancy of residents by an average of 15 years. The authorities have commanded that immediate protective action take place. In one study, pollution levels in eight urban areas in the Asian metropolis were measured between 2004 and 2008. The results were cross-referenced with the deaths that occurred in that same period, and the conclusion was drawn that the high levels of pollution abridged the life expectancy of citizens drastically, between approximately 15 and 16 years. The international environmental conservation organization Greenpeace commented on the disturbing results, which they blamed on China’s dependence on fossil fuels. The smog is so condensed that it is sometimes viewable from outer space. Visibility has been reduced to just 32 feet in some northern areas because of the filthy haze, which has now began to blitzkrieg into southern China. The Beijing government has vowed to commit $817 billion to improving air quality by 2017.
According to The Economical Observer, the state will offer one billion pounds for the curtailing of the smog. Unfortunately, these are the same state officials that sanctioned the construction of 15 large coal-mining operations, despite the knowledge that such an endeavor would only exacerbate the country’s noxious atmosphere. Despite statements made previously by the Chinese government that it plans to reduce it’s coal dependency, this project will use six times more coal than it has in previous years, an amount that is greater than 100 million tons. China’s coal production is currently equal to half the worldwide sum.
Near the end of last year, authorities made it mandatory that pilots who fly domestic aircraft into China’s 10 busiest airports be qualified to land when visibility falls below 1300 feet. Aviators must be well versed in the auto-landing instruments present upon most Airbus and Boeing models, due to the pervasive smog that is shrouding the sky. Air pollution levels spiked today, prompting the release of a report by the Center of Environmental and Respiratory Health on the decrease in life expectancy caused by poor air quality. Images taken by NASA show toxic clouds visible from intra-galactic regions in space.
By Apryl Legeas