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August 2, 2011

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Home » Metro » Environment

City air takes unhealthy turn

SHANGHAI'S air quality deteriorated significantly in the first half of this year, said a report released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Densities of the three main atmospheric pollutants - sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and suspended particulates - rose at least 16 percent each, compared with the same period last year.

Rising the most was PM10, or suspended particulates with a diameter less than 10 micrometers, which went up 25 percent. Health officials have a particular concern about these tiny particles, because they can be inhaled directly into the lungs, posing long-term health risks.

"The frequent sandstorms in northern China in the first half of this year are blamed for the worsening air quality," Wei Huajun, director of Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau's pollution control department, said yesterday.

Shanghai experienced its worst level of pollution during two sandstorms at the start of May, with recorded air quality at the top of the five-level scale - severe. The last time that happened was in 2007.

Meanwhile, construction site dust and road dust also contributed to serious particulate pollution, Wei said. Locals have complained about dust rising from construction sites for a long time and have called for strict controls.

Tourists are troubled by the dust rising from a shopping center under renovation on the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall. Many people cover their mouths with their hands and walk faster when passing the building near the Century Plaza. Public sanitation workers said the situation has lasted for several days and the renovation is expected to run until September 30.

Wei said environmental authorities will start using higher-tech equipment to spread water in a way that should keep dust levels down.

Among the 113 monitored cities, Shanghai is one of the 68 considered second level, which means it's "within standards" in the three-level system. The remaining 45 cities, including Beijing, are in the third level, which means they have excessive pollution and are "out of limits," the report said. No cities had air clean enough to make the first level.

The city of Urumqi in the northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region had the worst air quality in the first six months of this year, the report said.


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