Beijing issues blue warning for pollution after Lantern Festival fireworks, 32 other cities experienced heavy pollution

| February 16th, 2014

The fireworks of Lantern Festival have wreaked havoc on the air quality of northern China. PM2.5 levels in Beijing rose to 501 micrograms per cubic meter at 11 pm on Lantern Festival, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and Beijing issued a blue warning. Additionally, 33 other cities, many in the surrounding area, experienced heavy levels of pollution.

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Lantern Festival is the last day of the Spring Festival celebration period, and people go crazy launching the last of the fireworks off all night.

The Beijing newspaper Jinhua reported Sunday February 16:

According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s website, officials from the ministry told the media that Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, the surrounding area, and the midwest experienced heavy pollution from the combination of bad atmospheric conditions combined with the use of fireworks and firecrackers during Lantern Festival. On February 14, 33 cities experienced levels of pollution that rated heavy (重) or worse. Beijing in recent days has always been at or above level 5 pollution. On February 14, it got up to level 6 severe (严重) measures of pollution, initiating a blue warning [the least serious of a four-color warning system] for heavy pollution (重污染蓝色预警).

Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei’s Pollution the Most Serious
This official explained, on February 13, while developing new air quality standards to monitor 161 cities, there were 17 cities with pollution levels of heavy (重) or higher. Among them, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, and the surrounding area were the most serious. Within the area, 10 cities had air quality that was classified as heavily polluted or higher. Baoding, Shijiazhuang, and Xingtai were ranked as severely polluted, based primarily on PM2.5 and PM10 levels.

On February 14, there were 33 cities with heavy pollution or worse. Compared with February 13, the number of cities with heavy pollution increased by 16.

Within the Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei area, Shijiazhuang, Baoding, Xingtai, Beijing, and Hengshui were severely polluted, and Zhangjiakou, Langfang, Handan, and 15 other cities were heavily polluted. Among them, Shijiazhuang was the worst polluted cite. Its average PM2.5 density for the day was 363 micrograms per cubic meter (the average daily PM2.5 standard [recommended by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection] is 75 micrograms per cubic meter or less [although the World Health Organization’s recommended standard is 25]), and its average PM10 density for the day was 578 micrograms per cubic meter (the standard for PM10 is 150 micrometers per cubic meter [the WHO recommends 50 or less]).

Beijing Initiated a Blue Warning
From Beijing’s severe air pollution emergency director’s office), the reporter found out, Beijing’s unfavorable weather conditions continued to influence the air quality, as the air current moved poorly. At the same time, the fireworks and firecrackers set off on the night of Lantern Festival increased the degree of pollution. From 6 pm on the day of Lantern Festival, the density of PM2.5 increased markedly, rising to a peak hourly average of 500 micrograms per cubic meter. There was even an individual instance of 900 micrograms per cubic meter recorded. Compared with the peak recording on New Year’s Eve, Lantern Festival was 50% higher.

Yesterday, with Beijing’s air pollution still at level 6, the whole city initiated blue warning measures for heavy pollution.

Starting Today, A Slow Improvement
According to experts’ analysis, the pollution will remain through the night, but it will start to get a little bit better this afternoon, and by tomorrow there will be a noticeable improvement.

According to air quality forecasts, while today’s conditions are are not favorable for the pollution dispersing, the forecast does call for small improvements beginning in the afternoon, as the pollution level will fall from the heavy level 6 of yesterday to a more moderate level 4.

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