Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau: U.S. Consulate Publishing PM2.5 Air Quality Data Illegal

Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau: U.S. Consulate Publishing PM2.5 Air Quality Data Illegal
June 1, 2012
Chen Tingting for China News
Translated by Little Bluegill

During a June 1 press conference, the Shanghai Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau announced that installation of the city’s PM2.5 (fine particle) air quality measuring equipment was completed in late May. The equipment will now undergo testing and calibration in June. An exact date for when the machine’s readings will start being made available to the public is yet to be announced.

According to the “Plan for the Testing and Implementation of the First-phase of New Air Quality Standards” published by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, Shanghai is among the first batch of Chinese municipalities granted permission to publish PM2.5 air quality data. Earlier media reports also indicated that Shanghai would officially begin publishing PM2.5 data this June.

Shanghai Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau director Zhang Quan stated that official publication of PM2.5 readings would signify at least three achievements: that the installation of national air quality control centers has reached completion, that the 10 indexes by which new environmental standards will be calculated will have been made public and that new standardized equipment has passed the testing phase.

After the installation of Shanghai’s national air quality control center, the equipment must still pass temperature and humidity testing before it can meet scientific requirements, Mr. Zhang said. Only then would results be made available to the public.

In May, the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai began issuing its own PM2.5 air quality data on the consulate’s official website. Mr. Zhang stated that the consulate’s publication of PM2.5 data is illegal.

PM2.5 readings recorded by the consulate tend to differ from the readings of the Shanghai Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. Regarding this, Mr. Zhang again responded, “The PM2.5 density readings taken by the U.S. Consulate and some other research organizations are actually very similar to the Environmental Protection Bureau’s. The disparity arises from differences in evaluation criteria.”

Mr. Zhang indicated that China employs the World Health Organization’s (WHO) relatively low Level 1 standards for PM2.5 readings. Some developed nations, on the other hand, use the higher Level 2 or Level 3 standards.

PM2.5 refers to particulate matter suspended in air measuring less than or equal to 2.5 microns in diameter—a size so small that the particles can enter into a person’s lungs. Because these particles are highly toxic and stay suspended in the air for a very long time, potentially traveling vast distances, they are considered to be very damaging to human health and the environment. In February 2012, China’s State Council issued new air quality standards, which, for the first time, included standards regarding PM2.5 density.