August 7th, 2008
08:30 PM ET

When good is bad and fairly good is really bad

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/07/art.china.pollution.jpg]
John Vause
CNN Correspondent

Chinese is a very difficult language to learn, even when it’s in English. Often when officials here have said the air is excellent and all I can see is smog, I've been left scratching my head trying to work out how that could be. So, recently I’ve been emailing a lot with Dr. George D. Thurston, Professor of Environmental Medicine NYU School of Medicine. He spends a lot of time trying to work out what the Chinese statistics mean when it comes to air quality.

So here’s what he tells me:

Excellent (China) = Good to Moderate (U.S.)
Excellent to Good (China) = Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (U.S.)
Good to Slightly Polluted (China) = Unhealthy (U.S.)
Slightly Polluted to Lightly Polluted (China) = Very Unhealthy (U.S.)

So during these Olympics, when you hear a Chinese official say the air is Good to slightly polluted, you’ll know that if you were in the US, that would be considered unhealthy.

Filed under: Global 360° • John Vause • Olympics
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. JC- Los Angeles

    So let me see if I have this correct; after much consultation with Dr. Thurston of NYU School of Medicine and after trying to determine a Chinese correlation to an American correlation, the following has been determined:

    Slightly Polluted to Lightly Polluted (China)=Very Unhealthy (US): George W. Bush.

    Good to Slightly Polluted (China)=Unhealthy (US): Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Alan Greenspan, John McCain.

    Excellent to Good (China)=Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (US): Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Wall Street.

    Excellent (China)=Good to Moderate (US): I'll have to get back to you on this one; I'm stumped.

    August 8, 2008 at 12:10 am |
  2. Jolene

    So I suppose this means we will be seeing a lot of Americans wearing face masks during the games eh?

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    August 7, 2008 at 9:42 pm |
  3. Heather,CA,US

    My nephew has returned to Bejing to attend Bejing Univ on exchange and his Chinese is excellent!

    August 7, 2008 at 9:35 pm |
  4. Annie Kate


    Did the Professor say why the Chinese measurements were so much different (not as stringent) than ours? I hope the air quality stays at least in the excellent range for the athletes sake.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 7, 2008 at 9:15 pm |
  5. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Well, "On a clear day you can see forever." I guess China and the USA have a different view of forever?

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    August 7, 2008 at 9:10 pm |
  6. Cindy

    From the way it looks I don't think China's air will ever be excellent or any where near that! Honestly I doubt it'd pass as slightly polluted. I'd be afraid to breathe it!


    August 7, 2008 at 8:56 pm |