PM2.5 and Public Health

Published on Author zhoun18

According to New York State Department of Health, PM 2.5 are tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated. It is believed to post the greatest health risks, which includes “respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity from lung cancer, such as aggravation of asthma, respiratory symptoms”. The sources are motor vehicles, power plants, wood burning, and certain industrial processes. In Beijing, from 2008 to 2015, 49% of the days were considered as unhealthy to go out. 4% was considered hazardous.

However, not many people in China really knew about the danger of it even though people in big cities live with it until a CCTV journalist Chai Jing released the documentary “Under the Dome” to the public online, talking about how serious the issue is in China. Just the first day it came out, the film had more than 150 million viewers. One thing Chai did at the end of the film was to call out for actions. She wants Chinese citizens to “stand up” whenever they see violations of environmental laws and demand changes. Considering the great effect and panic it caused to the public, in three weeks, the documentary was censored and blocked by the Chinese government.


It is true that Chinese government has been doing things to solve the problem, such as shutting down some steel firms. However, it is clear that stopping these pollutant sources is also slowing down the Chinese economy.


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Nuoya is currently a freshman at Washington and Lee University. In high school she enjoyed music, and was the only violin player at her school. Nuoya’s performed in spring and winter concerts for three years during high school. Nuoya also enjoys team sports. She was a member of both the varsity and JV high school volleyball teams. Also, as part of fundraising for her senior class gift, Nuoya “smuggled” pearls from China to the United States, raising hundreds of dollars for her senior class! In her spare time, Nuoya loves reading dystopian literature and watching Sci-Fi movies. Nuoya’s personal research interest are in the history of luxury. Her high school was not far from New York City, where she became familiar with luxury brands on Fifth Avenue. She is interested in further exploring the creation of luxury, as well as the history of branding.

5 Responses to PM2.5 and Public Health

  1. It is interesting how paranoid the Chinese government is when it comes to the opportunity for discontent. Look at the different flash points that it works so hard to fight. Scandal is, of course, always on that list of points, but with something as potentially damaging as the Panama Papers, they were quick to shut down the ability to learn about the controversy.

    Environmental issues, on the other hand, did not seem to be on the list of flash points before the release of the documentary you mentioned. It seems the government has become much more respondent to the issue, however, given the discontent created following the documentary.

    I am not sure how much of an impact the environmental aspect had on the decision to shutdown a large portion of the steel industry, but the aspect has certainly caused the government to react. It has recently pledged a cap on carbon emissions in the near future and a shift to alternative energy sources.

  2. The revised 2012 Chinese National Ambient Air Quality Standards included standards on PM 2.5. Therefore, we can expect a national PM 2.5 monitoring system to be implemented in the coming years. A data set taken on 190 cities in China demonstrates that only 25 of these 190 cities meet the NAAQS (with regards to PM 2.5) in China. This suggests that PM 2.5 is a greater issue than we are being lead to believe.

    Zhang, Y.-L. and Cao, F. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in China at a city level. Sci. Rep. 5, 14884; doi: 10.1038/srep14884 (2015).

  3. While pollution in China is undeniably bad we must remember to look at it through a different lens than we look at pollution with in the United States. During the industrial revolution, pollution was terrible in both the United States and England. We cannot accurately measure levels during that era, but from descriptions and accounts we can surmise that pollution levels caused many deaths. Increased pollution is a part of any industrialization process, so we cannot expect China to adhere to the same stringent policies that we do in the United States. Instead, China must create their own system of gradually cutting down on pollution, which they have already begun.

  4. While I think its important for Chinese companies to take steps to become more green, Chinese citizens have to bear some of the responsibility as well. There have been many changes in the past few decades. In Country Driving, Hessler says that few people had cars or even knew how to drive. At this point, country wide green initiatives by subsidizing green or electronic cars would make a great impact.

  5. As stated above, China will need to take steps to become more green over the next decades. The Chinese government has outlined this in their 13th 5 year plan by planning to reduce emissions per unit of GDP growth by 40-45 percent by 2020. They also are aiming to increase the share of non-fossil fuel energy by 15% by 2020 and banning commercial logging in natural forests. Hopefully by doing this, China will see an overall decrease in harmful pollutants and enjoy better air quality in urban centers.