Air Quality in China: A Snapshot

Air Quality in China: A Snapshot

Nearly five weeks ago, Beijing experienced its worst day of air quality on record: Levels of PM2.5—small particulates that can cause lung, cardiovascular, and respiratory disease—soared to more than thirty times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization.

Map of air quality in China
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Since then, reporting on China’s “” has been accompanied by what seems like a monochromatic slideshow of the country’s iconic cities—Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin—all smothered in thick smog.

Indeed, China’s most populous and prosperous cities are among the epicenters of this latest pollution crisis. In Tianjin, for instance, levels of PM2.5 hit 577 on February 9, the eve of the Chinese New Year. In Beijing, sales of New Year’s fireworks after the municipal government asked residents to limit their use.


Michael Zhao
Beijing’s air pollution regularly makes international headlines. But exactly how bad is the air in the Chinese capital, home to more than 21 million people? That’s the question China Air Daily strives to answer—in pictures we take every single day...

But air quality in China is also a nationwide problem—a predicament that affects cities with far less name recognition than Beijing or Shanghai. Last week, the People’s Daily reported that of the seventy-four key cities monitored by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, all seventy-four reported “excessive” PM2.5 concentrations on February 10, the first day of the Chinese New Year.

And as a glance at pollution figures from this morning shows, hazardous air conditions remain in cities throughout China, from Urumqi (with a PM2.5 concentration of 511 micrograms per cubic meter, or twenty times the recommended limit) to Guangzhou.


China’s Most Polluted Cities

View in a larger map.
1. Xingtai, Hebei
2. Shijiazhuang, Hebei
3. Baoding, Hebei
4. Handan, Hebei
5. Langfang, Hebei
6. Hengshui, Hebei
7. Jinan, Shandong
8. Tangshan, Hebei
9. Beijing
10. Zhengzhou, Henan


China’s Least Polluted Cities

View in a larger map.
1. Haikuo, Hainan
2. Fuzhou, Fujian
3. Zhoushan, Zhejiang
4. Xiamen, Fujian
5. Huizhou, Gunagdong
6. Zhaoqing, Guangdong
7. Shenzhen, Guangdong
8. Kunming, Yunnan
9. Lhasa, Tibet
10. Zhuhai, Guangdong



This story by Eli Bildner was published in partnership with .





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