Two Major Air Pollutants Increase in China

In the first three months of this year, levels of two major air pollutants increased by almost 30 percent here in the Chinese capital, over the same period in 2012, according to a report on Wednesday by a Chinese news organization.

The pollutants — nitrous dioxide and particulate matter that is between 2.5 and 10 micrometers in diameter, called PM 10 — appeared to have surged sharply in January, showing levels 47 percent higher than the same month last year, according to the report by The Economic Observer, a respected Chinese newspaper. The report cited as its source Chen Tian, the head of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.

A third pollutant, sulfur dioxide, decreased slightly over the same three-month period.

Mr. Chen said the main reason for the increase in two pollutants was high levels of emissions. Citing Mr. Chen, the report said “the emissions created by those living and producing in the city far exceed what the environment can take.”

The report said the environmental bureau had concluded that the increases in the two pollutants had been also partly due to topography and weather conditions. Beijing recently had its highest levels of relative humidity in a decade, and surface wind speeds were the lowest in 10 years, which together resulted in a lower-temperature inversion layer that trapped pollutants, the report said.

Cities in northern China have been grappling this winter with record levels of air pollution, which have stirred fear and anger among many Chinese. In January, the Beijing municipal government recorded jaw-dropping concentrations of particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller, called PM 2.5. The highest concentrations were recorded at nearly 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter, which was on par with some severely polluted days in industrial London during the mid-20th century.

Beijing resembled an airport smokers’ lounge in mid-January, and some foreigners called the persistent and omnipresent smog an “airpocalypse.”

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