By Benjamin Cost
For those of you who still think you’re safe outside Beijing, researchers reported yesterday that downtown Shanghai’s fog vapor harbors cancer-causing chemicals. Researchers at Fudan University found our fog to contain carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) at levels ranging 0.03 micrograms to 6.67 micrograms per liter.
How much cancer is that? Unfortunately we have no idea. The researchers maddeningly state something everybody knows already about Shanghai pollution: “This is higher than in some domestic and overseas areas.” And since an official PAH exposure limit recommendation does not appear to exist (if it does, please let us know!), we have no real way of gauging how cancerous our cancerous fog really is.
A further scientific comparison between the city’s vapor and a sample from the pristine Mount Huangshan in Anhui province revealed that Shanghai’s fog was gross and yellow, while fog from the mountains was clean and pure. Again, the findings are mind blowing.
PAH levels exist in cities all over the world, as they are caused by the burning of fossil fuels. They are also found often in soil, as well as food (it’s the stuff people worry will give you cancer when you burn your toast.)
Now we just need a way of interpreting the researchers’ “hazy” results so we know just exactly how terrified we should be.
Read on pollution from Shanghaiist here.