Parents demand air purifiers be installed in schools, not all successful

Parents beset by hazardous smog in cities such as Beijing and Tianjin are calling for air purifiers to be installed in classrooms as many cannot take time off work to look after their children when schools close due to pollution.

Beijing has issued air pollution red alerts twice this December. Primary schools, secondaryschools and kindergartens were all shut down during the alerts, and some schoolssuspended classes on a smog-choked Christmas Day following suggestions from theBeijing Municipal Commission of Education.

Many schools have already installed air purifiers, while others are still waiting for officialapproval from the authorities despite the fact that parents are eager to buy purifiersthemselves.

Parents’ call

Many parents reached by the Global Times said they have tried to or already boughtpurifiers for their children’s classrooms.

A father, surnamed Jiang, whose child is studying at the Primary School Attached toPeking University, told the Global Times that parents in his child’s class paid 200 yuan($30) each to buy two purifiers after Beijing issued its first smog red alert.

Wu, father of a 4-year-old girl who attends a kindergarten in Chaoyang district in Beijing,told the Global Times that his daughter’s class is not so lucky, because the kindergartenrefused the parents’ offer to buy purifiers for the class, as the local educational authoritymay collect the purifiers to redistribute them to all the area’s schools.

Beijing Huijia Private School has set up four air-supported stadium roofs so students canstill have PE class on smoggy days.

Air purifiers are not on government purchase lists in many cities, which means many localauthorities cannot spend their budget on purifiers, a newspaper affiliated to the Ministryof Education reported Wednesday.

Air purifiers are not affordable for every school, and parents might differ on which kind ofpurifier to purchase and where to place the machine, added the report.

Some parents have attempted to crowd-fund air purifiers for their children’s schools. butthese attempts have usually been refused by schools and teachers, saying they needapproval from the education authorities to use purifiers.

Pei Sheng, headmaster of a primary school in Shanghai told thepaper.cn that it’s hard toreach a consensus among parents and claimed that an air purifier won’t make muchdifference anyway.

A teacher told the China Youth Daily that purifiers will bring safety concerns and parentscannot buy and use them in classrooms.

Safety concerns

The Beijing education authorities have been working with environmental experts, researchinstitutions and businesses on the feasibility of installing air purifiers in schools since2014, an unnamed official with the commission told the Beijing News on Saturday.

However, it is not clear whether or not installing purifiers would have side effects thatcould damage children’s health, said the official.

Regular air filters might cause the concentration of carbon dioxide in a classroom to rise,Deng Gaofeng, head of the low carbon-building study office with the China Academy ofBuilding Research, told news outlet china.org.cn on December 21.

“Take the classroom we tested for instance. If we keep windows and doors closed duringclasses, the concentrations of CO2 in the classroom will double from 1,000 parts-per-million (PPM) to some 2,000 PPM, while according to safety standards, the highest indexshould not be more than 1,500 PPM,” said Deng.

However, the density of CO2 won’t be a problem unless the classroom was completelysealed, said Liu Youning, a professor of epidemiology and respiratory medicine at theChinese PLA General Hospital, adding that fresh air systems can fix the problem.

“Without standard guidance from local authorities, the brand of the purifier, installation,and even the security of the devices can all be issues,” Liu Liangcheng, vice-principal ofBeijing’s Taipinglu Primary School, told china.org.cn on December 21.

One thing is clear, the younger that children are, the more vulnerable they are to airpollution, and protections should be implemented not only on severely polluted days butalso on the more lightly polluted days which are very common in many cities, Liu Youningtold the Global Times.

Beijing’s red alert for pollution won’t stop life from going on

On Tuesday, China’s capital felt the effects of the new restrictions around its air pollution red alert.

The red alert — the most serious warning on a four-tier system — is the first time the country has sounded the alarm for air pollution at this level of severity, but it seems plenty of people continued to go about their routines.

Cities like Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei in Northern China have been particularly badly hit, in part due to their proximity to the many coal-burning factories in the region.

Under the red alert, Beijing’s private cars will only be allowed on the streets on alternating days, with the aim of halving the traffic on the streets. Schools, factories and construction sites are ordered shut, while businesses are instructed to have flexible working hours so some employees can stay home instead of travelling to the office.

But while lots of people on Weibo said they were making plans to stay in to avoid the smog for the next few days, many ignored the official warnings to spend less time outside.

In this photo posted by China National Radio on its Weibo, it shows a policeman removing a sticker on a car’s licence plate used to obscure whether it is an even or odd number.

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IMAGE: CNR WEIBO

Reuters reports that hundreds of people, including toddlers, stood in Tiananmen Square in Beijing to watch the flag-raising ceremony on Tuesday morning.

And despite the traffic restrictions, this photo from a Beijinger shows a traffic pile up on the streets on Tuesday:

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IMAGE: WEIBO

Local news [link in Chinese] reported a group of taxi drivers under the Didi Kuaidi company had parked their cars outside the Beijing police headquarters on Tuesday in protest of the traffic restrictions, saying their livelihoods were affected.

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Didi Kuaidi taxis parked outside Beijing police headquarters

IMAGE: SINA WEIBO

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IMAGE: SINA WEIBO

Elsewhere in the city, some vendors, including street hawkers continued to go about their business.

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A hawker sells pancakes to a Chinese pedestrian along a street on December 8, 2015.

IMAGE: GOH CHAI HIN/AFP

Beijing issues first red alert for heavy air pollution

Pedestrians wearing face masks walk on road in heavy smog in Beijing, China, 8 December 2015.

IMAGE: GETTY

China Smog

IMAGE: ANDY WONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

On Tuesday, the phrase “the smog is back again” (雾霾又双叒叕来了) was trending on Weibo. The phrase includes a play on the word “again,” and expresses people’s frustration with the perennial air pollution in the region, literally translating to “the smog is back again, again, again, again.”

A user, G Nanke, blamed the pollution on people being complacent about the environment and businesses and the government not doing enough to arrest the problem earlier on.

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A user in Hebei, a city 150 km southwest of Beijing, said she felt like she was inhaling poison, and said she wanted to see a patch of blue skies again.

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IMAGE: WEIBO

Others posted photos of the city on the day.

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IMAGE: WEIBO

This poster said this was the view across from his apartment, and added jokingly, “I’m calling the police!”

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IMAGE: WEIBO

A school’s stadium, taken just days apart:

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IMAGE: WEIBO/MASHABLE COMPOSITE

Just prior to raising the red alert, Chinese environment minister Chen Jining said on Sundaythat municipal environmental protection agencies in Northern cities which failed to put in emergency response plans quickly enough would be “strictly punished.”

For now, the red alert is set to end at noon on Thursday.

Beijing closes schools and bans cars as smog health fears reach highest level

Health

Beijing closes schools and bans cars as smog health fears reach highest level

Beijing issued its first-ever red alert for smog on Monday, urging schools to close and invoking restrictions on factories and traffic that will keep half of the city’s vehicles off the roads. The red alert — the most serious warning on a four-tier system adopted a little over two years ago — means authorities have forecast more than three consecutive days of severe smog. An online notice from the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said it issued the alert to “protect public health and reduce levels of heavy air pollution”.

We have no choice but to step up preventative measures like wearing a mask outdoors at all times.

Beijing hotel staffer Fan Jinglong

Along with school closures and limiting cars to driving every other day depending on the last number of their license plate, a raft of other restrictions will seek to reduce the amount of dust and other particulate matter in the city of 22.5 million people. Officials said extra subway trains and buses would be added to handle the additional strain on public transport. Polluted air throughout broad swaths of China has had severe health effects. Most of the pollution is blamed on coal-fired power plants, along with vehicle emissions and construction and factory work. China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, plans to upgrade coal power plants over the next five years to tackle the problem, and says its emissions will peak by around 2030 before starting to decline.