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North China Smog Prompts Second-Day Warnings to Stay Indoors

Smog hit hazardous levels in China’s steel-producing Hebei region for the second day as state-controlled media announced plans to fine local governments that don’t meet pollution-control targets.

A concentration of PM2.5, the pollutants that pose the greatest risk to human health, reached 443 micrograms per cubic meter in Shijiazhuang and 758 in Xingtai as of 12 p.m., data from the China National Environment Monitoring Center showed. That’s more than 17 times levels of 24-hour exposure recommended by the World Health Organization.

Hazardous levels of air pollution in northern China yesterday prompted new pledges from government officials to address an issue that is provoking rising criticism from citizens. Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun declared an “all-out effort” to tackle air pollution, the official Xinhua News Agency said yesterday, citing a speech he gave at the annual session of the city legislature.

Levels of PM2.5 in Beijing, which hit 447 micrograms per cubic meter last night, eased to 112 micrograms per cubic meter at 1 p.m. near Tiananmen Square in Beijing today, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website.

China may fine local governments that miss air-pollution reduction targets set by the central government, the state-run China Daily reported yesterday, citing a draft of the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act.

Hebei, which has seven out of the nation’s 10 cities with the worst air, has shut down 8,347 small high-polluting firms in the past year, Xinhua reported separately, citing Yang Zhiming, deputy director of the provincial bureau of environmental protection.

China’s provinces and biggest cities have been asked to reduce concentrations of some air pollutants by 5 to 25 percent by 2017 compared with 2012 levels.

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