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Clearing away the fog of doubt

(China Daily)

08:30, October 30, 2012

A heavy haze covers Langfang, Hebei province. Experts say the main sources of air pollution in autumn and winter time are coal-fired power plants, heavy industry and diesel-powered automobiles. Zhu Xingxin / China Daily

New monitoring systems will give a better indication of pollution, report Wu Wencong and Jiang Xueqing in Beijing, and Qiu Quanlin in Guangzhou.

While Friday's airborne pollution in Beijing became a hot topic on China's online social networks and in newspapers, the environmental authorities insisted they are taking measures to contain the problem.

"Beijing has finished framing regional measures to jointly prevent and control air pollution within Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province," said Yu Jianhua, head of the atmospheric environment management office of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.

According to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center on Friday, trial readings of PM2.5 - particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers - from most of the city's 35 monitoring stations exceeded 300 micrograms per cubic meter. The readings hit level six, indicating the highest level of pollution, four times the national standard.

Medical experts say PM2.5s are responsible for a range of conditions: Short-term exposure can result in sore throats and coughs, while prolonged bouts are thought to contribute significantly to reduced lung function, coronary disease and premature deaths.

Official data suggest that about 25 percent of the capital's atmospheric pollutants blow into the city from nearby heavily industrialized regions.

Yu said the new measures are part of a long-term joint project among several regions to clean up air pollution nationwide. The project was established by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and details will be released by the end of the year. However, no date for implementation has been announced.

Few residents of China's larger cities are unfamiliar with air pollution, especially during autumn and winter, when low-hanging mist shrouds buildings in an impenetrable gray cloak.

In 2010, researchers Aaron van Donkelaar and Randall Martin of Dalhousie University in Canada used NASA satellites to create a map showing that the highest levels of PM2.5 occur across a belt of land stretching from North Africa, where desert winds disturb huge amounts of dust, to eastern China, a heavily industrialized region.

Since early October, Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, has been covered by a pall of dust and haze.

The main sources of air pollution in cooler weather are coal-fired power plants, heavy industry and diesel-powered automobiles, according to experts.

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