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December 25, 2010

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Today's baby buggy index is ...

WHAT'S the"baby buggy index" in Shanghai today?

While that question would only prompt puzzled looks for now, it could soon be the way in which city residents measure air quality.

For following complaints that the present "API index" forecast is hard to understand, local environmental and weather authorities are considering introducing a new, down-to-earth air quality forecast system.

Among suggestions is the "baby buggy index" - which would allow people to judge air quality by whether they are advised to take babies for a walk outdoors.

"I hear the term API index frequently, but never knows exactly what API stands for," said senior resident Ruan Weiying.

"So every time I hear it on TV, I just ignore it."

The API index, which stands for "air pollution index," includes the content of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and inhalable particulate in the air.

Deputy director of the Shanghai Urban Construction and Communications Commission Shen Xiaosu, who proposed the "baby buggy index," said the index could be much more accessible and practical.

Environment experts, however, said the API index is the most scientific gauge.

"The index is very accurate and cannot be replaced," said Wei Haiping, an engineer with the Shanghai Environment Monitoring Center.

Wei said the problem lies with media use of the term. She asked: "Why don't they use the phrase 'air pollution index' in Chinese, instead of the English acronym 'API'?

"If the terminology is modified, people will understand it more easily."

Shanghai had been shrouded in haze for a couple of days, but yesterday gales were expected to clear the air.

The high winds, however, also brought problems. All ferries to the city's three islands stayed in port yesterday morning due to the winds, maritime officials said.

Wind speeds at the mouth of Yangtze River reached more than 75 kilometers per hour, authorities said.

The ferry services gradually resumed yesterday.

More than 80 international ships were affected, with some staying in port while others docked further away.

Reduced speed limits were enforced in the Changjiang tunnel-bridge, police said.


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