A recent news report on CCTV covered China's PM2.5 air pollution debate, featuring our climate and energy campaigner Zhou Rong, as well as a very cute 12-year-old volunteer air inspector in Beijing.
12-year-old Gao Jinglun borrowed an air pollution monitoring device from an environmental NGO and setup shop on a busy street in Beijing. According to the report, he would record data for 30 minutes twice a day. He began his project after watching a news report that commented on the discrepency between the air quality levels given by the local environment protection bureau from the data measured by the US embassy in Beijing.
As the report says, "the disparity in the results comes from the fact that different organisations measure different things. China measures large particles, whilst at the US embassy, the main gauge for air pollution are small particles. Gao uses a device to monitor particulate matter 2.5."
Here at Greenpeace we are urging the government to take active steps to both accurately measure small particles in the air, and disclose this information to the public. As Zhou Rong said in her interview:
"The pollution exists whether you disclose it or not. The elderly and children, when they are walking outside, they should be informed that the air is dangerous and take some measures to protect themselves."
Zhou Rong also points out that Beijing is only one city, and that air pollution concerns a wider area. China's mid-west and eastern regions, where lots of coal is burnt, are also frequently subject to waves of smog.
She says the recent dispute on whether China's air pollution index is reasonable, has attracted public scrutiny as well as a demand for a solution.
Zhou Rong said, "Everybody noticed it and has put it on their agenda. Our whole economy relies on heavy industry. It's time for us to restructure, to focus on energy efficiency and move away from coal to more renewable energies. This is also an opportunity."
The importance of including PM2.5 in the air pollution readings is that PM2.5 measures smaller particulates - the kind that is a greater threat to our health as they're more likely to pass into the human respiratory and blood circulation system.
And we already know one little guy who's going to benefit from more information transparency. From the report:
Gao Jinglun plans to write an essay on air quality with the help of his mother. But he says his own data isn't sufficient. If the government disclosed more information concerning air quality, he might find it easier to write.
Find out more about air pollution in China, including our list of "real-time apps, twitters tracking air quality levels in your Chinese city".