Beijing was embarrassed last week as its residents swarmed to shops to buy face masks and air purifiers due to concerns about a thick cloud of smog that had enveloped the city. Matters were worsened by discrepancies between official air quality data and that from the U.S. Embassy, spurring a renewed call for a wider range of checks, particularly on PM2.5 pollution, which experts warn is increasing in the capital's air.
On Dec. 7, Ma Xuekuan, chief weather forecaster for the National Meteorological Center (NMC), said in a program called Half-Hour Economy on China Central Television (CCTV) that on Dec. 4 in Beijing the air pollution index had surged to above 400, achieving a rare rating of 5 – or "heavily polluted."
The program also quoted remarks made by Wang Yuesi, a researcher with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who said their data indicates that PM2.5 pollution has been on a worsening trend in Beijing since 1998, although he also claimed that measures to curb PM10 pollution had made preliminary achievements.
With the public more vehemently demanding the government to factor in PM2.5 in its official (and public) air quality data, the Ministry of Environmental Protection says it is already making final preparations to amend the national air quality standard.