Morwell vs. Beijing

Morwell’s air is extremely unhealthy right now (28th February 2014) due to the continuing fire in the Hazelwood coalmine. About an hour ago, Rosemary Lester, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, advised “anyone over 65, pre-school-aged children, pregnant women and anyone with a pre-existing lung condition living or working in Morwell South to relocate” (ABC News).

The concentration of PM2.5 particulates (airborne particulates 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter) reached 280 micrograms per cubic metre in Morwell South yesterday – more than 11 times the World Health Organisation’s safety threshold. These particles penetrate deeply into the respiratory system and have been linked with increased rates of mortality, heart attacks and lung cancer.

Most unpleasant. Nevertheless, spare a thought for Beijing and its surrounding provinces, currently smothered in smog containing PM2.5 particles at 505 micrograms per cubic metre. Scientists say China’s toxic air pollution resembles nuclear winter, and is now impeding photosynthesis and threatening the country’s food supply. One can only hope that the pollution’s economic toll – due to flights grounded, highways closed, increased morbidity and mortality, and many fewer tourists – will force authorities to act. Read more in Jonathan Kaiman’s story in (Wednesday 26 February 2014).

Campbell Aitken






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