Despite a Crummy March, Beijing’s Air in 2016 Still Way Ahead of Last Year After First Quarter

Father Time marches on, and 25 percent of 2016 is already in the bag. So how is Beijing’s air doing so far this year?Despite a crummy March that was barely ahead of March 2015, we’re still way ahead of last year, showing a greater than 30 percent improvement in air quality over 2015.Using the data supplied by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (and yes, tinfoil hat-wearers, they generally jive with the US Embassy’s readings), the average air quality index for 2016 so far has been 101, representing a 32 percent improvement over Jan-Mar 2015’s AQI 133.

That’s the glass half full. Glass half empty? March sucked.

Out of March’s 31 days, we had only nine go-do-Heyrobics-in-Chaoyang-Park great air days (AQI under 50) and six take-a-walk-without-a-mask good air days (AQI 50-100).

Meanwhile we suffered through 10 hide-at-home-and-order-Sherpas lightly polluted days (AQI 100-200);  three duct-tape-the-windows-and-huff-straight-from-the-IQAir polluted days (AQI over 200); and three quit-your-job-and-buy-a-ticket-home seriously polluted days (above 300).

March’s lung-blackening worst was AQI 365 on Friday March 4th. By the way, for those curious, Mark Zuckerberg took his now immortal jog on the fifth worst day of the month.

Last month’s foul air tripled the previous two months’ seriously polluted day count, bringing this year’s total of WTF-am-I-still-doing-here days to four.

But who are we to criticize progress? Almost a third better than last year is massively ahead of even the rosiest of government predictions about clean air, and even way ahead of our ridiculous mis-use of Excel forecasting that shows we can expect to be living in the AQI equivalent of the Swiss Alps in a mere 15 years.

Following this trendline we envision a day when Beijing can genuinely claim to have tackled what seemed like a permanent, intractable problem. Solve this and the traffic problem (and a few other pesky issues) and Beijing could be on its way to truly earning the moniker of World-Class City.

We’re still rosy that Beijing’s combination of rapidly increasing wealth, political will and the power to invest in leapfrogging technology will make us one day look back at this era as the dark ages of bad air.

In the mean time, we recommend you don’t give up the fight towards protecting yourself from bad air. Make sure you equip your homes, offices and faces with essential Beijing gear such as air filtration units, air quality monitors, and anti-pollution masks.

You can’t go wrong with a top-of-the-line device like the IQ Air by Healthpro, and China juggernaut Xiaomi has been getting a lot of love these days with its line of sleek and budget-priced air filtration machines (the original remains out of stock but a smaller one was recently launched for an amazing RMB 699).

We’re big fans of the Laser Egg, which you can now purchase at Apple stores, and are really looking forward to the AirVisual Node, which should be commercially available by the beginning of next month.

Photo: Flickr user Jack Versloot

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