Air pollution hits record levels in Beijing and other Chinese cities.

NYT: “In the first three months of this year, levels of two major air pollutants increased by almost 30 percent here in the Chinese capital, over the same period in 2012, according to a report on Wednesday by a Chinese news organization.”
“The pollutants — nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter that is between 2.5 and 10 micrometers in diameter, called PM 10 — appeared to have surged sharply in January, showing levels 47 percent higher than the same month last year, according to the report by Beijing News that was translated into English by The Economic Observer. The report cited as its source Chen Tian, the head of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.
….Cities in northern China have been grappling this winter with record levels of air pollution, which have stirred fear and anger among many Chinese. In January, the Beijing municipal government recorded jaw-dropping concentrations of particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller, called PM 2.5. The highest concentrations were recorded at nearly 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter, which was on par with some severely polluted days in industrial London during the mid-20th century.
Beijing resembled an airport smokers’ lounge in mid-January, and some foreigners called the persistent and omnipresent smog an “airpocalypse.”
The Beijing News and Economic Observer quoted Mr. Chen as saying that 60 percent of the increased levels of PM 2.5 were due to the burning of coal and fuel. PM 2.5 is considered more damaging than PM 10, because the smaller particles can penetrate the lungs and embed deeply in tissue.
To prevent cost increases, large state-owned enterprises in the oil and power industries have consistently blocked proposed policies that would cut down the levels of pollutants.
Last Sunday, researchers released data that showed that outdoor air pollution hadcontributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, which was nearly 40 percent of the global total.
….An official Chinese news report said last week that the cost of environmental degradationin China in 2010 was 1.54 trillion renminbi, about $230 billion, or 3.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. The amount was three times that of 2004.
A Deutsche Bank report from February said that current growth policies would mean a continuing surge in air pollution over the next decade.”