• Laith Sharba

Is it possible to repeat the scenario of air pollution Beijing 2008?

In 2007, Beijing suffering from a poor air pollution episode that’s killed about 350,000 to 400,000 persons as an estimated from (The World Bank) due to the high concentration of air pollutants. (PM10) - Particulate matter 10 micrometer or less - is the major pollutant of air. PM10 particles are generated natural and anthropogenic sources, dust storms and sand moves are the permeant natural source. While, Fuel consumption in motor vehicles or power plants, industrial production especially cement and limestone production, as well as waste incineration are the most anthropogenic sources of PM10. The seriousness of this pollutant is their effects on the respiratory system, this is because it can reach to the lungs and leading to many health problems which can develop to lung cancer then death and it measured by the concentration of their particles in a cubic meter of air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refers to air with PM10 concentration over 150 ug/m³ as unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Beijing 2007 has reached to about 250 ug/m³ of PM10 in their air as an annual average.

Smog surrounds Beijing, Credit: (China Foto Press/Getty Images)

Other air pollutants are Sulfur dioxide SO2, Nitrogen dioxide NO2, Carbon Monoxide CO and, Ozon O3, but these pollutants represent a local pollutant for the surrounding regions. Then, all these pollutants transformed into solid state at the end of pollutant lifetime after having previously entered several chemical reactions and transforming from primary pollutant to secondary pollutant. For example, the oxidation of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide is oxidized at the atmosphere to sulfate H2SO4 and acidic rains, those this component deposited to the earth’s surface as a particulate matter whether PM10 or PM2.5 according to the size of particles. Similarly, nitrogen dioxide is oxidized to nitric acid in the atmosphere and turn to the nitrate particles with size ranging between less than 2.5 – 10 micrometers. Therefore, scientists consider that particulate matters are the main pollutants that characterized the air quality index.

Air Quality Index, Source: (EPA)

By the time in 2008, when Beijing hosted the Olympic Games, the PM10 Level ranged between 150 - 600 ug/m³ during the tournament. Then, researchers identified “Beijing Olympics were the most polluted games ever” because the atmosphere reached a dangerous level of smog this is due to the weather conditions. So, some countries made arrangement for their athletes to train in neighboring countries and travel to Beijing just prior to the opening ceremony. Before the opening ceremony of the Games about week and more, the government shutting down all factories in Beijing and surrounding area and many orders taking to minimize air pollution this situation called “Scenario of Beijing”. Local weather conditions represent the most influence on air pollution episodes alongside the strength of pollution sources. Assuming the pollution source has a fixed emission rate about 50 ug/m³ the formation of air pollution episode depends on the weather conditions especially wind speed and direction, which controls the pollutants dispersion and concentration, where the weak wind helps to increase the concentration of pollutants and, the strong wind do the offset. In addition, Temperature affects the strength of chemical interaction between gases pollutants. In the other hand, affects the strength and weakness of the convection and the vertical dispersion. Humidity effects air pollution by offering the main component of acid rain composition with pollutant gases. Finally, precipitation effects on it through making the atmosphere clear by wet deposition of the pollutants especially particulate matter. Therefore, the weather conditions played a major part in reducing or increasing air pollution than restrictions imposed by the government.

Nowadays, many Cities of the worldwide suffering from air pollution and can repeat the Scenario of Beijing. Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Varanasi, Patna, Delhi and, Lucknow are Indian cities and their PM10 concentration ranged between 255 – 319 ug/m³ as an annual average of 2016. That is not all, it is about 13 cities of the most 20 polluted cities in the world are Indian cities (WHO, 2018). This average is an annual average, so when we investigate a monthly and daily average, we will find the concentration of PM10 is higher than 255 – 319 ug/m³. This is mean that the scenario of Beijing 2008 can be repeated more and more in the Indian cities. These expectations of repeating the Scenario of Beijing will increase with the weather conditions of India, where it located at equatorial and sub-Tropical regions which characterized with high levels of humidity and, heavy rainfall will cause clear the atmosphere, but compassioning of acid rains. This condition will limit the expectations of the future repeat of the Scenario of Beijing.

And what next? This is the current question. How can we be facing the repetition of the scenario of Beijing in other cities around the world?

For answers to this question, we need to detailed examination of the list of the most polluted cities in the world. We will find that the most polluted cities in the world lie in the east of Asia (India, China, Bangladesh and, Pakistan). So, we can confirm that the most polluted cities lie in the developing countries, which seeks hard towards progress and industrialization. These countries depend on polluting industries to make their economy, like Cement, Limestone, Coal mining and others. These industries are energy and labor-intensive, but there are contributing to the economy of these countries.

Through the above, we can suggest using clean energy for industries and transportation. Clean energy like Solar and Wind energy can solve the problem for transportation and the small industries, but for a bigger industry can use the waste burning energy and Nuclear power for operation.

We will address these issues in our next articles, ……….


1. China Foto Press/Getty Images.

2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2019, Air Quality Index (AQI) Basics, https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=aqibasics.aqi

3. NASA Earth Observatory.

4. The World Bank, 2007, Cost of Pollution in China, Conference Edition, March 2, 2007

5. World Health Organization, 2018, WHO Global Ambient Air Quality Database (update 2018), http://www.who.int/airpollution/data/cities/en/

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