China to Monitor Air Pollution Effects in Cities

China will start monitoring the effects of air pollution on the health of people in areas including Beijing and Shanghai, the government’s latest step to address public anger over the issue.

The country plans to set up a nationwide monitoring network in 16 of the worst-hit cities and provinces within three to five years, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in a statement on its website yesterday. Provinces to be monitored include Hebei, Jiangsu, Sichuan and Inner Mongolia, according to the statement.

Authorities are stepping up efforts to clean up the nation’s air and water in an effort to assuage public anger sparked by environmental degradation. Pollution is the top cause of social unrest in China, according to Chen Jiping, a former leading member of the Communist Party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs.

Harbin, the capital of northeastern Heilongjiang province, last week closed schools for two days because of a spike in pollution that pushed the air quality to severe levels after municipal heating began.

As cold weather arrives, northern cities including Harbin start to provide heating by burning coal to produce steam that’s piped into homes and offices.

Worst Air

Binzhou city in the eastern province of Shandong was home to the nation’s worst air today, with concentrations of PM2.5, fine air particulates that pose the greatest health risk, at 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter as of 11 a.m., according to the China Environmental Monitoring Center. That reading was 40 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of no higher than 25 micrograms for day-long exposure.

The health commission said initiatives would include monitoring PM2.5 concentrations, collecting information on deaths and analyzing the effects of air pollution on children.

The air improved in the capital today following “hazardous” readings yesterday. The concentration of PM2.5 in Beijing was 3 micrograms per cubic meter as of 11 a.m. near Tiananmen Square, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center. A U.S. Embassy pollution monitor showed air quality as “good” as blue skies returned.

Beijing last week released plans for coping with “serious” levels of pollution in the city. The city will order 30 percent of government cars off roads, close kindergartens, middle and primary schools, and halt some industrial production when such pollution is forecast, according to the plan.

Stay Indoors

The air across most parts of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Shandong was “heavily polluted” over the past 24 hours, the second-worst rating on the government’s six-level scale. At that level, the government recommends children, the elderly and people with heart and lung ailments avoid outdoor activities.

China may “soon” release a plan on the environment, which may be discussed at the third party plenum, the China Securities Journal reported on Oct. 17, citing unidentified people.

The third plenum of the Chinese Communist Party’s central committee, which includes President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, will be held in November and will discuss deepening of reforms, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

— With assistance by Alexandra Ho, and Feifei Shen

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.