China Air Pollution Triple WHO Recommended Levels in First Half

Air pollution in China’s largest cities, as measured by the concentration of fine particulates that pose the greatest health risk, was three-times worse in the first half of the year than levels advised by the World Health Organization.

The average concentration of PM2.5 particulates in 74 cities monitored by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection was 76 micrograms per cubic meter in the first six months, the agency said in a statement today. That compares with the WHO’s recommendation of no higher than 25 for day-long exposure.

Seven of the 10 cities with the worst air pollution were in the northern province of Hebei, the ministry said. Hebei is China’s biggest steel producing region. Air quality in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang failed to meet government standards on 90 percent of days in the first half, it said. The PM2.5 standard for cities is 35 micrograms, the report said.

China has sought to reduce pollution by curbing the burning of coal, limiting vehicle traffic and closing some factories as part of efforts to ease public anger about dirty air and water. Pollution is the top reason for social unrest in China, Chen Jiping, a former leading member of the Communist Party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs, said in March.

Air quality in Beijing, which is surrounded by Hebei, was worse than government standards on more than 60 percent of days in the first half, according to the ministry. Beijing was not among the 10 most polluted cities, which included Xi’an, Jinan, Zhengzhou, Tangshan and Shijiazhuang.

In Guangdong province’s Pearl River Delta, which is neighbors Hong Kong, air quality met standards on almost 80 percent of days in the first half, according to the ministry. Shanghai met standards on 65.2 percent of days and had no days rated as “heavily polluted,” it said.

— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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