May/June 2010

Real-time air quality monitor launches in Shanghai

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has teamed up with a Chinese environmental bureau to provide real-time air quality monitoring from the site of the World Expo in Shanghai.

According to The Associated Press, EPA officials said the move will help the city as it works with other areas in the region to clear its often thick blanket of smog.

The online system, dubbed AIRNow International, links technology developed by the EPA with the existing air quality monitoring network in Shanghai, a city of about 20 million.

"There's a real power in real-time data. Once you make data available hourly, you can forecast and people start paying attention," said Jeff Clark of the EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards.

The expo-based monitoring system in Shanghai monitors PM10, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

The agency provided technical help to Shanghai's Environmental Protection Bureau. The two sides also are collaborating on reducing emissions from vehicles and power plants, and on climate change, water pollution and other environmental concerns.

But cleaning up the city is only half the battle, since Shanghai lies downwind of heavily industrialized regions further inland. At times, farm fields in neighboring provinces are burned to clear stubble, leaving the city enveloped in a mucky haze.

"One key thing that has changed is the understanding that pollution is not a city-specific problem. They are reaching out to surrounding provinces to share data, similar to what we did in the United States," said EPA official Dale Evarts.

The EPA's AIRNow national index for reporting daily air quality was launched 11 years ago and provides information for nearly 400 U.S. cities.