Air pollution data from the Chinese government shows that more than 90% of 360 Chinese cities failed to meet national air quality standards during the first quarter of 2015 (According to a report by Greenpeace East Asia). However the report also announced that the level of fine pollutants was lower than the same period one year ago.
The study looked at the levels of fine particulate matter called PM2.5, considered more dangerous than other forms of pollutants because it can penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream generating a high number of human health risks. The average concentration of PM2.5 in the 360 cities was 66 micrograms per cubic meter, nearly twice the national standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.
However the drop of fine pollutants compared to the same period one year ago suggests that the policies announced by the central government in late 2013 aimed at limiting coal use in China’s most densely populated regions could be starting to show signs of success (view graph below).
Cities in the interior provinces were found to be the most severely polluted while cities near the eastern and southern coasts also had dire levels of fine pollutants.
Overall the data shows that China, despite a recent reduction in coal use, still possesses the most polluted cities in the world. However could this slight drop in fine pollutants over the past year indicate a turning point in China’s pollution problem?
Source: Wong, E 2015, ‘Hundreds of Chinese Cities Don’t Meet Air Standards, Reports Finds’ The New York Times 21 April. Available from <http://www.nytimes.com>. [11 May 2015]