80 per cent of Chinese cities exceed pollution limits

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Nearly 80 per cent of cities in China that report air quality data exceeded pollution limits in the first nine months of this year, an analysis by environmental group Greenpeace said Thursday.

The average annual concentration of harmful PM2.5 particles in 367 cities was 47.2 micrograms per cubic metre, over four times the safe level recommended by the World Health Organization.

The figure also exceeded China’s official target of maximum 35 micrograms per cubic metre.

The concentration of PM2.5 – referring to particles smaller than 2.5
micrometres – represents a fall of 12 per cent from the average over the same period last year, said the Greenpeace report, which was based on local government air quality readings.

These tiny particles, which can come from industrial activities, construction dust or vehicle fumes among other sources, pose serious health hazards because they can embed deep in the lungs.

Levels of the PM2.5 were highest in central Henan, Beijing and Hebei provinces, according to the report released Thursday.

Compared to last year, Beijing’s PM2.5 was down 15 per cent.

Many cities in China are notorious for their winter smog, which is
caused by a combination of air pollution and weather conditions.

A prolonged bout of high pollution in 2013 prompted China to pursue a national anti-pollution plan.

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