13 Feb 2018

Air Pollution Affects Us at DES Too

My wife Katie had a very serious allergic rhinitis. Every time we went to a city in China that has high air pollution (PM2.5), she could not stop sneezing and I didn’t know how to help her. In the year of 2014, she went on mission to Beijing during the heating season, around December. The air quality was so terrible there that she kept sneezing and could not stop, even after taking medicine. She had to stay in the hotel with two air purifiers working together.


After two or three years of upgrading and refurbishing the heating system in Beijing, all the small-size coal boilers have been replaced by a clean district heating network.  This network was expanded to cover major parts of the city and almost all the coal heating plants were replaced by combined heating and power using natural gas.


When Katie and I returned to Beijing again at the end of 2016, although she still had some allergic effects, she did not sneeze as much as before. Even after this effort, however, air pollution is still a major health concern in parts of China. In Beijing and other northern provinces the concentration of PM 2.5 particles – those small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream – has hit as high as 505 micrograms per cubic metre in recent weeks. The World Health Organization recommends a safe level of 25. 


The National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China is working with UN Environment to help cities implement renewable and efficient district energy systems, reducing pollution caused by necessary energy production. These systems will thereby contribute to their particulate matter targets and related goal to cut coal use by 150 million metric tons by 2021. 

Story by: Zhuoloun Chen

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