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Guangzhou to release PM 2.5 data ahead of schedule

Following widespread calls for the government to provide more information on pollution, and particularly air quality in the country’s sprawling metropolises, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has vowed to revise its air quality appraisal system by 2016. But it turns out China’s third largest city, Guangzhou, capital of the southern Guangdong province, is already steps ahead of the pack.

Published data says the air is slightly polluted, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way out on the streets.

The reason behind the frequent discrepancies between good government ratings and the actual experience of urban Chinese: PM 2.5 or particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter are missing from the equation.

Prof. Pan Xiaochuan from Medical school of Peking Univ., said, “A lot of the toxic matters in the air, such as carcinogens, are attached to the particles. They can cause great damage to your body once breathed in.”

Amid calls from the public to revise the current air quality standards to include readings of concentrations less than PM2.5, the government has agreed to this, but not before 2016. But Guangzhou says no need to wait till then. It’s already prepared for this, and the advantages are already showing.

According to the Guangzhou environmental protection bureau, the city first started collecting PM2.5 samples in 2000. Official monitoring began in 2009. The new standards and strict regulation have proven fruitful. Guangzhou enjoyed fine air 98.8 percent of the time during the first 11 months of the year.

A Guangzhou resident said, “I think PM2.5 data should be published. This is the new standard. It’s an international standard and we should use it.”

Major cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, have experienced chronic haze as a result of the surge in vehicle ownership and coal use in recent years. Now with Guangzhou promising to get a head start in cleaning up its environment, residents elsewhere are hoping their cities will follow suit.

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