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Most Chinese Cities Don't Pass Gov's Own Air Quality Standards

Feb 04, 2015 12:26 PM EST
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As part of China's "war on air pollution" launched in 2014, the country's government has revealed that only eight of its 74 largest cities have passed their own air quality standards. As a result, the government has reaffirmed their pledge to take action to improve air quality.

These results were published in a statement made by the Chinese environment ministry's website (in Chinese - as reported by BBC), and revealed that actions taken since the "war on air pollution" was declared have indeed improved air quality to "varying success."

Unsurprisingly, the report also revealed that the great majority of cities still facing dangerously high particulate conditions are in northeastern Hebei, the province that surrounds the capital Beijing. Past reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) have also listed this region as infamously polluted, with Beijing often topping lists of cities with the poorest air quality in the world.

However, according to the new ministry report, Baoding, Xingtai, Shijiazhuang, Tangshan, Handan, Hengshui, Jinan, Langfang, Zhengzhou, and Tianjin have surpassed Beijing in poor air quality, largely because the situation in the capital city has actually improved.

That may have a lot to do with the fact that the city itself is not a major source of air pollution, but instead is often caught in a crossfire between haze from other industrial regions and heavy smoke from the slash-and-burn tactics of Chinese agriculture in fall and winter months.

The government shut down more than 8,000 coal-burning factories in Hebei last year to cut local pollution while simultaneously working towards a reduction in carbon emissions by up to 45 percent by 2020, as declared in 2014. Beijing itself has declared plans to be utterly independent of coal power by that same year, with economic officials expecting only 10 percent of the city relying on coal plants by 2017.

Still, as shown in the report, China is a long way away from making city air safe for its people. And the country is not alone either. As described in a past WHO report, only about one in 10 urbanites around the world are breathing safe air, with residents of India having it the worst.

And to make things worse, this pollution doesn't sit still. NASA has recently shown how Asian air pollution over Beijing and Delhi is gusting into the North Pacific, where it collects moisture to facilitate the formation of frequent and powerful storm systems that can affect even the US East Coast.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN). 

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