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Air pollution

Beijing air pollution now 800% higher than WHO limits

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: air pollution, Beijing, pollution limits

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(NaturalNews) China continues to sing the environmental blues, with air pollution levels in the capital city of Beijing now so high that they exceed the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommended safety level by nearly eight-fold. Bloomberg reports that recent air samples taken by Beijing's Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center reveal levels of fine particulate matter, PM2.5, hovering just under 200 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3), or about 800 percent higher than the WHO limit of 25 mcg/m3.

The most threatening form of particulate matter, PM2.5, is the designation given to very fine particles that measure smaller than 2.5 mcg in diameter. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists PM2.5 as the most harmful type of particulate pollution for humans, because it is easily inhaled and, due to its small size, capable of lodging and accumulating deep within the lungs and respiratory system.

According to reports, levels of PM2.5 measuring 198 mcg/m3 were detected in China's Tiananmen Square around 11 a.m. on February 22, prompting China's Ministry of Environmental Protection to dispatch 12 groups of investigators to three different Chinese provinces to see if local authorities there are following proper environmental guidelines. This includes enforcing appropriate regulations on highly polluting industries like steel and coal production.

"Beijing maintained its air pollution alert at orange, triggering orders for some enterprises to limit production and a ban on outdoor barbecues and fireworks, as smog levels were projected to stay hazardous until at least Monday morning," explains Bloomberg, noting that extreme levels of air pollution are being detected all across China. "Smog will persist until Monday morning in Beijing, Tianjin, and parts of Hebei, Shandong, Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces," adds the report.

Many years of heavy pollution has destroyed 8 million acres of Chinese farmland

Unfortunately for the Chinese people, the human health consequences of all this air pollution extend far beyond simply inhaling particulate matter when out in public. Back in December, Chinese officials announced that more than 8 million acres, or about 3.33 million hectares, of fertile farmland is now too polluted for growing crops.

China's Vice Minister of Land and Resources Wang Shiyuan told reporters at a news conference right after Christmas that all farming operations on this polluted land would have to cease immediately to make way for remediation and cleanup efforts. He did not, however, comment on whether food already grown and harvested from this polluted land would still be permitted for retail sale.

"These areas cannot continue farming," he stated, noting that all 8 million acres are moderately to severely polluted with toxic chemicals.

With arable land area the size of Belgium now lost, not to mention Beijing having experienced its worst air pollution "storm" on record back in January, it is no wonder that China is constantly in the news for selling and exporting polluted food. According to the Chinese government, the country needs at least 120 million hectares of arable land to meet its food needs, an amount that it is now barely achieving.

"There is a price to pay for becoming the world's factory country, and now it's beginning to show up," adds one CBC.ca commenter to the conversation. "There is also a price to pay for doing things in a way that businesses favors.... It's just a matter of time before people have to clamor for change in order to keep from starving."

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