After a few days of insanely polluted air, China blew the top off the charts of how polluted air could be. The Economist has released this chart which notes that Beijing is not even one of the most polluted places in China:
Using a different but more widely used measure collated by the World Health Organisation of larger particulate matter called PM 10 (particles of 10 microns or less), which allows cross-country comparisons, that dubious honour is bestowed on Lanzhou in the northwestern province of Gansu (and the city of Ludhiana in India is more polluted still).
Beijing doesn’t even crack the [WHO] list [Update: Because it’s just a list of the most polluted city in each country. Beijing is on the list of most polluted cities in the world], but Bakersfield, California, does, so we shouldn’t be too quick to judge the bad air overseas. China--which has been cagey about measuring and releasing data--is going to be making more data available soon, which might rejigger this list. In the meantime, NASA has released photos of Beijing’s smoggy pollution.