In northern China, a 328-foot air purifier is making it easier to breathe for residents of Xian in Shaanxi province, according to South China Morning Post.
It’s the world’s biggest air purifier, greatly surpassing the next biggest in Beijing, and it’s turning a private solution into a public amenity, the paper reports.
All across China, stifling pollution has led to a surge in the use of personal air purifiers to help people ward off the adverse health effects that come from breathing in contaminants.
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But that’s just for indoors. When people venture outside, the air is often smog-filled and dangerous.
With the Xian smog tower project , that problem is beginning to be addressed, based on preliminary experiments conducted by by researchers at the Institute of Earth Environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, according to SCMP, which also funded the tower’s construction.
The cost of the air purifier was not disclosed, SCMP reports, but it works through a large array of greenhouses that absorb air in the nearby area. The air is then heated up with solar energy, filtered up to the tower where it’s purged of contaminants, and released back into the atmosphere.
Since it came online a few months ago, the tower has led to cleaner air within four square miles of its installation and it has produced 353 million cubic airs of cleaner air, SCMP reports.
One especially harmful type of pollutants known as PM2.5 dropped by 15% compared to similarly polluted periods in the past, according to the researchers.
That’s an encouraging sign for residents of the area and it shows that local, regional, and national officials are taking the threat of air pollution seriously.
Because it’s powered by solar energy, the air purifier also doesn’t indirectly contribute to the problem of air pollution like household devices.
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Ultimately, however, the giant machine fails to address the underlying causes of air pollution — a continued reliance on fossil fuels and a general lack of industrial regulation.
The winter months in Xian particularly see a spike in air pollution because the region relies on coal to heat homes and provide electricity, according to SCMP.
In recent months, the government has tried to shift away from coal toward natural gas, but when this plan failed, threatening widespread unrest, it unveiled a major investment campaign for renewable energy to prevent similar shortages in the future.
That policy follows a larger investment of $361 billion in renewables through 2020.
It also follows a growing crackdown on polluters. A few months ago, the government shut down and fined tens of thousands of factories for pollution violations.
All of this seems to suggest that China may soon be entering an era of environmental sustainability.
Until that happens, however, the people of China could use some more towering air purifiers.