- During Shanghai Expo, Oct2010
I have been getting sick on and off the past few weeks. I tend to blame it on the winter coming on…or perhaps it’s just the air. The World Expo in Shanghai wrapped up at the end of October. While the Expo was running from April until October, the government had ordered factories to shut down, construction to stopped, etc. to reduce pollution for the six months of the Expo. It worked! When I arrive in Shanghai there were blue skies. It was lovely. However, once November hit, things began to change.
An air pollution index below 50 is excellent, 50-100 is good, and above 100 indicates hazard. I have also read that when pollution gets above 250-300 that a person in optimal health will feel effects such as decreased stamina, weakened immune system, etc. During the Expo, levels were good. However, just a day after the compulsory anti-pollution measures were suspended, air index levels were quickly on the rise. Some blame it on the winter weather that carries pollution from inland provinces. The spike in the index seems too great to put only on weather. Plus, it’s a known fact that production and construction have returned to maximum levels in Shanghai now that the tourists have left.
Just after the Expo the index climbed over 100–the highest in 5 years. November 1, it was 156. On November 13, it hit 370. Three-hundred seventy! No wonder I get sick easily here. I love walking around the city. Surprisingly and the worst part, I don’t really notice it’s that bad. On the other hand, when I was in Beijing last week, I definitely noticed–a blanket of yellow/brown haze sprawled every direction engulfing the city. To track Beijing air pollution, there is a nifty little twitter tool that updates the air index for Beijing a few times each day. When levels recently hit over 500, the site was forced to create a new rating that went beyond “hazardous” to “crazy bad”. Seriously. Air pollution in Beijing has reach “crazy bad” and Shanghai is working its way there as well.
- Post-Expo Pollution
According to National Geographic: Chinese Air Pollution Deadliest in World, “Air pollution is estimated to cause approximately two million premature deaths worldwide per year. A World Health Organization (WHO) report estimates that diseases triggered by indoor and outdoor air pollution kill 656,000 Chinese citizens each year, and polluted drinking water kills another 95,600.”
It is very frustrating to see how swift the government is to institute quick-fixes for events like the 2008 Olympics, the 60th Anniversary Parade in 2009, or the 2010 Expo. All three events–sources of tremendous national pride and international attention–saw clear skies. Skies that people in Beijing see maybe a few times a year, let alone days in a row! If the Chinese government can shoot chemicals into the sky to make it blue for a parade, put a ban on cars for the Olympics and halt construction in a metropolis like Shanghai, I would imagine they have people on their team that are working on more widespread plans. Let’s just hope we start seeing some long-term action at work soon.
There are numerous health hazards beyond pollution in China (as in any country!). The following is a list by month of some of the worst health-related incidents in China in 2010. Thanks to ChinaHush. Includes: melamine milk scandal, killer plastic surgery, H1N1, H5N1 and toxic McNuggets.
Memo of Health Incidents in China 2010.