Wuhan enveloped in smog.
From a newsletter emailed by the US Embassy this morning:
The Embassy has received reports from U.S. citizens living and traveling in Wuhan that the air quality in the city has been particularly poor since yesterday morning. On June 11 at 16:20, the Wuhan Environmental Protection Administrative Bureau posted information about this on its website. Below is a translation of that information:
“Beginning on June 11, 2012 around 08:00 AM, the air quality inside Wuhan appeared to worsen, with low visibility and burning smells. According to city air data, starting at 07:00 AM this morning, the density of the respiratory particulate matter increased in the air downtown; it increased quickly after 08:00 AM. The density at 14:00 approached 0.574mg/m3, a level that is deemed “serious” by national standards. An analysis of the air indicates the pollution is caused from burning of plant material northeast of Wuhan.
Our investigation of downtown’s districts, and based on reports from all of Wuhan’s large industrial enterprises, have determined that that there has not been any explosion, sewage release, leakage of any poisoning gas, or any other type of urgent environmental accident from large industrial enterprises. Nor is there burning of crops in the new city area. News spread online of a chlorine leak from Qingshan or a boiler explosion at Wuhan Iron and Steel Plant are rumors.
According to our investigation, the abnormal air quality in our city is mainly caused by the burning of the crops northeast of Wuhan towards Hubei province. Similar air quality is occurring in Jiangsu, Henan and Anhui provinces, as well as in Xiaogan, Jingzhou, Jingmen and Xiantao, cities nearby Wuhan.
The weather forecast authority of the city has advised that recent weather conditions have not been good for the dispersion of pollutants.”
U.S. citizens are reminded that air pollution is a significant problem in many cities and regions in China. Health effects are likely to be more severe for sensitive populations, including children and older adults. While the quality of air can differ greatly between cities or between urban and rural areas, U.S. citizens living in or traveling to China may wish to consult their doctor when living in or prior to traveling to areas with significant air pollution.
The traditional burning of straw has been pinpointed as the main culprit, according to the Global Times:
The Hubei Provincial Environmental Protection Department released its initial investigation results Monday afternoon, saying the possibility of industrial pollution being the cause had been eliminated, with the most likely culprit being the burning of straw in neighboring provinces.
The sudden invasion of haze was similar to one in Jiangsu Province over the weekend when residents of several cities felt suffocated while smelling something burning.
The Nanjing Environmental Protection Bureau (NEPB) announced on its official microblog on Saturday night that the instant value of the air pollution index jumped to 478, making it the most polluted city among the 120 cities publishing the same index.
The PM2.5 readings in 13 cities all greatly exceeded the standard as of Sunday night, according to the Yantze Evening News.
The rarely seen pollution even swept into some cities in Shandong and Henan provinces. The provincial observatory of Jiangsu issued a yellow warning signal for haze on Sunday, as did Wuhan Monday.
The NEPB on Sunday pointed to the burning of straw in Jiangsu and Anhui as the primary cause for the pollution, which was exacerbated by unfavorable meteorological factors.
The Nanjing city government later pledged to strengthen investigations into the straw burning, which was made illegal in 2009, and work to find an alternative to the outdated tradition.