Forbes: Beijing’s Smog Alarms Public, But Data Shows India’s and Others’ Air Quality Far Worse

Beijing’s dangerous levels of smog clogged news feeds this week.

But analysis of World Health Organization data obtained by Forbes shows that other cities suffer far worse air pollution — in some cases, 50 percent more on average.

The Chinese capital issued the second ever red alert for hazardously high levels of air pollution Friday.

The first red alert closed down schools and limited traffic between Monday and Thursday.

Pollution levels reached 300 micrograms per cubic meter, 12 times the World Health Organization’s recommended exposure of 25.

The pollution mostly comes from China’s coal-burning power plants.

It kills over 4,000 people a day, according to a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal earlier this year.

Beijing’s smog looms large in the public’s imagination, perhaps as a symbol of collective anxiety about the rise of a foreign power.

But, as our infographic shows, other parts of the developing world have far worse average air pollution.

According to data collected by WHO in 2014, 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India.

No Chinese city appears in the top 20, although 14 Chinese cities were in the top 100 cities with the worst air.

Beijing ranked 76th in that list. (The lone pink marker in the U.S. is Fresno, California — 161st)

There are signs that China may be taking steps to reduce its environmental issues.

It pledged to reduce power sector emissions by 60 percent by 2020 and signed an agreement at the Paris climate summit to keep global warming under 2 degrees centigrade, with an aspiration of 1.5 degrees.


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