Three Quarters Through 2016, Beijing’s Air 10 Percent Better Than Last Year

With 75 percent of 2016 in the can, Beijing’s air has been 10 percent better than last year, a trend that we endorse with a deep, deep breath and a bellowing “Huzzah!”

September 30 marked the end of the third quarter of the year, and numbers turned in by the Ministry of Environmental Protection show that we’ve seen a 10 percent improvement in the average AQI so far this year, from last year’s AQI 116 to this year’s AQI 105.

That’s just a hair’s breadth lower than the 11 percent improvement we saw through the first nine months of 2015 vs 2014 (the figure from the same period in 2014 was 129).

That makes two years in a row that the AQI has improved by at least 10 percent.

Granted, this is our own back-of-the-envelope calculation, and it’s based on the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s own average readings for all of Beijing, which includes distant mountaintops on the outskirts of the city as well as downtown monitoring stations.

However, the apples-to-apples comparison over time shows definite improvement, and as we’ve mentioned in the past, official Beijing figures jibe with the monitor installed at the can-do-no-wrong US Embassy near Liangmaqiao, so this does not appear to be a matter of officials fudging the figures.

Should Beijing continue to show the same 10 percent improvements each year, it’s not a stretch to forecast that the average AQI by the time the city hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics could be hovering around AQI 50, the threshold at which even the US EPA says is pretty damn good.

Imagine that for a moment: Beijing, walking away with a black eye (or black lung) after hosting the 2008 Olympics under smoggy skies, comes back as host in 2022, with athletes returning home raving about the pristine air (and who knows, maybe the amazing public transport system and the politeness of the locals. We can dream, can’t we?).

Looking back at 2016 so far, we started off excellent in the first three months, then wallowed in sorrow as the air turned bad again over the next three. Now we’ve seen a rebound again.

September was the second-best month of the year in terms of AQI, with an average of 88 (the best was February’s AQI 70). Meanwhile, March has been the worst month of 2016 to date, with an average AQI of 131 (that, of course, was the month that Mark Zuckerberg took his famous maskless jog through Tiananmen).

Despite all this good news, we recommend you don’t give up the fight towards protecting yourself from bad air, as an average AQI of over 100 is still not too wonderful for your lungs.

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, Blue Air or the budget Xiaomi. You can also shop for a used model by checking our classifieds here.

You’ll also want to get yourself a home monitor to see if your filters are doing their job: we’re big fans of both the Laser Egg and the AirVisual Node, and consider them “must have” gear for the resident of Beijing.

Image: Michael Wester

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