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Beijing issues a ‘red alert’ for smog

Posted December. 09, 2015 08:30,   


It is obvious how blurry Beijing’s sky normally is after a rain. When a rain washes away the dust, a clear blue sky finally emerges, just like the one you can see in Korea. A rumor about a diplomat who died of lung cancer after regularly jogging in Beijing puts other diplomats living in the Chinese capital in great fear. In 2013, Gary Locke’s comment on his resignation being "not due to the smog," rather brought a huge attention to the severity of China’s air pollution. He was the first Chinese American to become the ambassador to China.

China’s air pollution warning alerts are issued in the order of yellow-orange-red. On Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, the concentration level of ultrafine particles (PM 2.5) was 1000μg per m³, 40 times the World Health Organization standard. However, the Chinese government was criticized for just maintaining orange alert. In the case of Korea, the range for “bad” level is 81 to 150. When orange alert is issued, any activity at construction sites generating dust is banned and children and elderly should refrain from going outdoors. The alert functions as a warning signal to people even though it does not actually lower the level of smog.

The City of Beijing issued its first red alert on Monday afternoon, after receiving a series of harsh criticisms accusing the city of "ignoring Chinese people’s health.” A red alert is announced when the level of PM2.5 is expected to exceed eight times that of the WHO standard for more than three consecutive days. On Wednesday, vehicles with even numbers on the license plate will be banned on the roads and kindergartens and schools will be closed. As of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the city’s pollution level reached as high as 15 times the WHO level.

Ultrafine dust is designated as one of carcinogens by the WHO. It is so fine that airway does not filter it, allowing it to be accumulated in human body. Korea operates a 4 level forecast system that consists of good-normal-bad-very bad, and usually a “bad” alert is issued when the "made-in-China" smog affects Korea. It may be our sin to have China as a neighbor. Korea is not in a position to stop the operation of Chinese factories or ban cars on the roads. Still, the Korean government should push China to inform us properly so that we can be prepared in advance.