Wishing the grey skies away
THE Olympic Games finally kicked off with a blast in Beijing after days of being shrouded in a muggy haze.
It was a relief for the world's athletes who congregated in China for the biggest event of the year when the Beijing skies cleared up - there were moments last week when the quality of the ah- seemed too hazardous for the Games to go on.
It is definitely a relief for the organisers, as the air quality in the Chinese capital has been their most pressing problem for a while now.
The Chinese government reportedly spent US$17bil trying to clean it and since July 20,
it had banned half of the city's three million cars from the streets, closed factories, and halted most construction, hoping it would reduce the levels of pollution.
Despite all its efforts, clear skies remain an elusive target. In the end, it will come down to the wild card of weather: rain and wind, To stay abreast with China's fickle air quality throughout the Games, especially if you are going to Beijng or waiting lot your favourite outdoor event to begin, check out AIRNow at http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=where.world
The website offers daily air quality index (AQI) for different countries ill the world, so once you've checked on China, you can check the air quality in other parts of the world, including Malaysia.
The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your outdoor air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you, The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.
While all the world's environmentalists are coming down hard on China for its AQI, it is good for us to try and understand the circumstances that are causing the air pollution. To learn more, go to http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2008/02/chinas_air_poll.html
This website provides not only the various sides of the story but also a wider context of the issue.
Malaysia may be thousands of miles away from China, but we have our own persistent haze problem. Only last Sunday, we woke up to hazy skies triggered by forest fires in Indonesia's Sumatra island. Forest fires from Indonesia caused by traditional farming
methods created a choking haze, which shrouds the region annually.
In Malaysia, air quality is described as the Air Pollutant Index (API), The API is an
indicator of air quality and was developed based on scientific assessment of the presence of pollutants and its impact on health. The API system of Malaysia closely follows tile Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA).
To learn how the API scale and terms are used in describing the air quality levels, go to the official website of Malaysia's Environment Department at http://www.doe.gov.my/v2/en/content/air-pollutant -index-api-reading-0
Daily readings of the API index can be obtained at http://www.doe.gov.my/apims/
It will tell you if the API exceeds 500, which is a state of emergency,
Usually, this means that non-essential government services are suspended in the affected areas. Sometimes all the ports, offices, shops and restaurants will be closed too.
For the latest news on global incidences of air pollution and its effects, the best site
to visit is http://www.airpollutionnews.com/
If you are wondering what the effects of air pollution are, try
According to this medical depository, different people can react very differently to air pollution; some people may notice chest tightness or cough, while others may not notice any effects.
Even a healthy, high-performance athlete in much better physical condition than the rest of us will be physically affected from days or weeks of working out in an environment with a high API.
Another useful website for pointers on staying healthy in a hazy environment is
Although stakeholders - scientists, environmentafists, economists, politicians -are still debating about how to control air pollution, many agree that one of the main causes is the rapid population growth and development in countries like India and China.
Rapid development will also lead to a higher release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These gases contribute to other environmental problems such as global warming and climate change. Read about it at http://www.ucsusa.org/giobal_warming/
If you don't want to be bogged down by facts, check out the map of the warming world and other changes in the climate system at http://www.climatehotmap.org/