Why Does the U.S. Embassy Report Higher Pollution Levels than Beijing's Monitoring Center?

Why Does the U.S. Embassy Report Higher Pollution Levels than Beijing's Monitoring Center?
May 28, 2015 Translated by eChinacities.com

Editor's Note: This article, translated from Wenxue City, answers questions about the discrepancies in the different PM2.5 measurements by the United States and China in Beijing. Beijing uses a different, less strict evaluation method when it comes to measuring PM2.5, therefore the U.S. Embassy often reports higher levels of air pollution. Beijing's standards, according to the author, are the accepted standards used by developing countries internationally.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Monitoring Center use different standards to evaluate Beijing's air quality. Therefore, the U.S. Embassy's PM2.5 data is often inconsistent with China's own measurements, said Beijing Monitoring Center director Zhang Dawei. The monitoring itself is not an issue, but the two use different standards when reporting air pollution results, which can cause misunderstandings.

Ensuring Disclosure

Zhang Dawei was interviewed last week by the foreign media. More than 70 reporters from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and 10 other nations visited the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Monitoring Center and a northwestern thermoelectric energy center to research air pollution control in Beijing.

Reuters reporters Pao Chule and Di Yige asked how Beijing can ensure the disclosure of pollution information. “The disclosure of enterprise information is an important means of pollution control,” said Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau deputy director Fang Li. Fang said that there is currently legislation in the works for national corporate disclosure of emissions. This will rely on existing rules and regulations and emphasize corporate social responsibility, and promote initiatives for businesses to disclose their emissions information.

Different Evaluation Standards

When asked a question about how the U.S. Embassy's PM2.5 data is inconsistent with China's data, Zhang Dawei said that Beijing also has a monitoring station near the US Embassy in Beijing and that the data from that station is essentially the same as the embassy's data.

However, Zhang explained that the differences between the two PM2.5 reports come from differences in evaluation criteria. The US evaluates PM2.5 at 35 micrograms per cubic meter, while China evaluates it at 75 micrograms per cubic meter when calculating the daily mean.

When looking at the absolute concentration value of air particles to measure air quality index (AQI), China and the U.S. will often come up with different numbers because of their different standards of evaluation.

Zhang explained that the difference in standards means that if the average concentration of PM2.5 is 68 micrograms per cubic meter, China will evaluate the air as Level 2 or “Good,” and the United States will evaluate it as Level 4 or “Moderately Polluted.”

Gradual Change

Why is there a difference in Chinese and U.S. standards? Zhang admitted that, “The United States' standard is stricter than China's,” but stressed that the development of air pollution governance is a gradual process. Due to different levels of social development, standards are not the same globally.

China's evaluation at 75 micrograms per cubic meters, is the standard measurement system for developing countries as determined by the World Health Organization, said Zhang. This is recognized by the global scientific community.

In 1997, the United States measured PM2.5 at 65 micrograms per cubic meter. Through governance and social development, it dropped to 35 micrograms per cubic meter in 2006.

“Beijing is trying,” said Zhang. He said that Beijing is putting pressure on companies who use dirty coal energy, promoting the use of new energy efficient vehicles. Beijing and Tianjin have also deepened collaboration in the fight to reduce emissions.

In the first four months of this year, PM2.5 in Beijing fell 19% and there have been 57 days with acceptable air quality. This is an increase of eight good air days from last year. The number of heavy pollution days this year also fell by 42%.

Source: Wenxue City

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Keywords: Beijing air pollution U.S. Embassy Beijing PM2.5


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Because announcing an internal problem is a loss of face! Can't lose face. And we all know those Americans with their fancy high techie toys are just liars anyway, trying to make China look bad.

Jun 04, 2015 09:29 Report Abuse



So true

Jul 06, 2015 18:21 Report Abuse




Jun 01, 2015 04:39 Report Abuse



who cares

May 31, 2015 21:06 Report Abuse



Beijing is over population most ppl coming from other province

May 30, 2015 09:18 Report Abuse



Making excuses don't make problems go away.

Jun 01, 2015 08:13 Report Abuse



So, basically they're saying it's not polluted because they're a developing country.

May 29, 2015 18:31 Report Abuse



China uses a different system deliberately to try and deceive their own people into thinking the pollution is not that bad. It is similar to how they use a different system to measure if a plane is late at an airport. They manipulate figures to be more favourable.

May 28, 2015 15:28 Report Abuse



China's economy feeds off western markets including the U.S. So the US should shoulder some of the responsibility for the chronic air pollution (especially in cities like Beijing where the smog gets trapped so much) caused by the factories and power plants needed to make so many 'cheap' products for westen consumption.

May 28, 2015 14:32 Report Abuse



Western consumers have no say in how these cheap trinkets get manufactured, so you are establishing a heck of a lot of responsibility without good cause. It's like saying: "You bought the girl a drink, now pay for health expenses, and all the destructive and inefficient habits of her extended family!"

May 28, 2015 17:37 Report Abuse




May 28, 2015 20:32 Report Abuse



Without Western factories Chinese would still eat rice with vegetables at every meals. No need to say thanks, we are even.

May 28, 2015 21:58 Report Abuse



Yes, it has nothing to do with the fact that Chinese pollution laws and regulations are subject to hong bao treatment and fines are so low that industry just looks at them as the "cost of doing business." It's all the big bad United States fault. Damn Americans not enforcing Chinese law. This posters has to be either the most racist Chinese person on the planet or the most self-hating lao wai that graces ECC. Either way, most, if not all, of this posters drivel is just that. . .drivel.

Jun 04, 2015 09:27 Report Abuse



Well, they know they have a serious problem, and their numbers are relative, so they do provide pretty good info about air quality. Now if they would just do something about it...

May 28, 2015 14:20 Report Abuse