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Beijing Olympics were smoggier than we thought

June 19, 2009 |  6:44 pm


It turns out the Beijing Olympics were smoggier than we thought. Even Los Angeles on a bad day couldn't compete.

Chinese environmental experts under-reported levels of particle pollution by about 30%, according to scientists at Oregon State and Peking universities. New research shows that levels of particle pollution, which enters the lungs and can cause serious health problems, consistently surpassed what the World Health Organization would call "excessive." 

Scientists said particulate matter pollution was twice as high as the Olympics in Athens, three times as high as Atlanta and three-and-a-half times higher than Sydney, Australia. 

And compared with smoggy Los Angeles? The levels exceeded the L.A. average by about two to four times.

To give the Chinese government credit, Beijing had a big decrease in particle pollution leading up to the Games because of limits placed on driving ahead of time, according to the study. Still, it seems shifting winds and fortuitous rains had more impact in scaling back pollution than government restrictions.

The study was jointly funded by the U.S. and Chinese National Science Foundations.

--Amy Littlefield

Photo: Beijing's smog surpassed Los Angeles' levels by two to four times. Credit: Jean Chung / For The Times