PM2.5 being monitored nationwide

China is speeding up its efforts to establish monitoring stations across the country in order to test its air quality. So far, a total of 138 monitoring stations have begun publishing data and more will be introduced by the end of this year.

By the end of this year, four municipalities, 27 provincial capitals, as well as three key regions — east China’s Yangtze River Delta, south China’s Pearl River Delta and the northern Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area will be equipped with air quality monitoring stations which is able to provide PM2.5 reading.

Currently, a total of 138 monitoring stations in 74 cities across the country have begun publishing data such data on air quality, and another 195 monitoring stations have started trial runs.

Minister of Environmental Protection Wu Xiaoqing says China is introducing a comprehensive system through which to monitor the environment and release information to the public simultaneously.

“When the city has seen consecutive heavily polluted days, they need to activate an emergency system. For example, the local government and media need to provide immediate direction on people’s life including travel, health and exercise suggestions. They are also required to forecast the consequences of the data they receive and figure out an overall plan in order to deal with all kinds of situations. Then use simple language and terminology to explain the situation to the public and update them with sufficient information about the changing air quality.”

PM 2.5 refers to particles in the air that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which are believed to pose health risks. Some particulates occur naturally, originating from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, living vegetation, and sea spray. Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and various industrial processes also generate significant amounts of particulates.

Minister of Environmental Protection Wu Xiaoqing says a basic monitoring network covering general air quality has expanded from 113 cities to more than 330 prefecture level cities or towns.

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“With a systemic upgrade, the network now covers a wider area with more stations. It is very helpful for China to get an overall picture of the changes in its air quality nationwide.”

At the Jiangsu Environmental Inspection Center, the air quality inspectors are busy monitoring local pollutants’ PM 2.5. Deputy Director Zhang Xiangzhi says the upgraded system can instantly provide alerts about polluted air in local cities.

“From our upgraded system we can see that most of the 17 monitored places have better air quality, but there is light air pollution in Nanjing and Xuzhou, so we could inform the local government and they would recommend their local residents to reduce their level of outdoor activities in order to protect their health.”

So far, some 519 million yuan or about 82.6 million U.S. dollars has been spent funding the establishment of the monitoring networks. Scientists say that the standard of testing PM 2.5 is only one way to assess the level of air quality. As technology is continuously being upgraded, monitoring stations across China will provide more accurate figures to help people learn about the air they breathe on a daily basis. Brent Qvale Authentic Jersey