Evan Soltas
Feb 9, 2013

Why China Can't Breathe

My latest in Bloomberg View talks about China's air pollution problem from the perspective of economic and political institutions:

On Feb. 10, Beijing will celebrate the Chinese New Year -- assuming the city can catch its breath. January may have been its worst month ever for air pollution. The level of airborne particulates was six times higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe.

The EPA’s Air Quality Index measures small-particulate pollution on a scale that runs from 0 to 500. Last month, Beijing’s intraday high was often 360, deemed “hazardous.” The daily average was 230, deemed “very unhealthy.” A typical reading for New York is 80, considered “moderate.” On Jan. 22, Beijing’s pollution was literally off the scale. Its AQI score was 755. On five other days, the reading exceeded 500, the nominal maximum.