Recent news out of Beijing makes absolutely no sense to us at Water Gallery: they are now RAISING the threshold for "red alerts" due to high air quality index (AQI) ratings. In other words, the air has to be not just frighteningly smoggy, but actually TERRIFYINGLY, ALARMINGLY smoggy in order for Beijing to issue a red alert. Going forward, the highest alerts can only be declared when the daily AQI exceeds 500 for a day, 300 for two days in a row, or 200 for four days in a row. Previously, as seen with the red alert issued this past December when schools were closed, 5 million vehicles were ordered off the roads, and construction was shut down (we blogged about it here), an AQI of 200 or more for three consecutive days has been deemed worthy of the highest alert. But now the pollution levels have to be considerably worse than this for a red alert.
China's long history of pollution has been a constant source of controversy and protest for decades. Environmental experts say that China is unlikely to meet the air quality standards considered safe in the United States until at least the year 2030. The health risks for China's citizens are truly frightening, even just through living their everyday lives. It actually makes the seemingly-ludicrous idea of buying canned fresh air from the Canadian Rockies actually sound logical.