The Shanghai Daily, a local newspaper, reported Shanghai weather January 25th as …a little polluted with temperatures reaching as high as 17c Saturday. I guess this is a new term to describe weather. It certainly has become part of my daily routine, check the weather and AQI before heading outside. Living in Shanghai over the last 5 years pollution has become more apparent. The first year we didn’t notice it much. The second year we found a few days uncomfortable and you could see it along the skyline. The third year we lived here levels became high where the sky looked an odd greenish grey. Being outside it irritated your eyes, nose and throat. Soon after our school started to report the levels to us and parents. If it is higher than 200 (pm2.5) children would be kept inside. The school also purchased air purifiers for the classrooms.
We started to see more bad air days and higher levels last year (2014). One day it reached a high well over 400, and some reports say closer to 500. Inside even with air purifiers at full speed a haze and acrid smelling air found its way into classrooms. This year we purchased an expensive air purifier for our apartment, despite us leaving in a few months. We decided our health was worth the expense.
The shot on the right shows a little blue sky…levels are around 200.
This weekend reports are saying Beijing, North of Shanghai (5 hours by speed train, few hours by plane) is unlivable due to the air quality. Beijing has always had the bad rap for air since it is in a valley and it is easier for the bad air to get trapped. Shanghai is now starting to see the problems Beijing has experienced, but without the same geography. The local government in Shanghai is trying to cut back on bad pollutants when winds are low and air quality indexes get high in hopes this will reduce the pollution levels in the city. Cleaner coal has been purchased, as coal is still a major producer of electricity here.
The shot of the right is zoomed in and you can just faintly make out the new Shanghai Tower.
My theory for bad air, around this time of year, is the holidays are soon approaching. Chinese New Year is the equivalent to our Christmas. Most businesses can shut for as long as 2 weeks, so workers can go home to celebrate with families. Shanghai has a large migrant community with people moving here to make larger wages or get work. My theory is there is an increase in production and manufacturing to make up for lost time. Is it possible to work over time, extra shifts and 24 hour rotations to stock pile products, so the world can keep on consuming? It may explain the sudden spike in higher levels. For example today at 8AM levels were low/normal for this time of year, around 140. The website I use to check classes that as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”. By noon is was around 170, or Unhealthy. As I started to write this post it was 220, or Very Unhealthy. The latest update now pegs us at 337 or Hazardous. Our air cleaner is pumping hard and not able to keep “blue” showing clean air.
Of course we can say China has a problem, but so did north America 30-40 years ago. What changed? Most industry moved here. What isn’t made in China? Something to ponder….
We so often take our clean air for granted…You will have learned to appreciate our clean air after five years in China.