The Chinese government has acknowledged the need for more accurate reporting of air pollutants and has passed regulations requiring some cities to monitor for ozone and PM2.5 particles. From China Daily:
The State Council on Wednesday passed revised air quality standards which include an index for PM2.5, or fine particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter.
The new standards include indices for the concentration of PM2.5 and ozone (O3) over a period of eight hours, according to a statement from the State Council issued after a meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao.
However, the statement did not reveal the details of the two indices.
In 2012, the monitoring of PM2.5 and O3 will be conducted in four municipalities, 27 provincial capitals, as well as three key regions — east China’s Yangtze River Delta, south China’s Pearl River Delta, and Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area in the north, the statement said.
Next year, an additional 113 cities must adopt the standards and by 2015, they will be in effect in all of China’s smaller cities. As the Guardian points out, the government also took the unusual route of acknowledging the role of public protest in this change:
The national air quality rules were agreed at an executive meeting of the state council presided over by the premier, Wen Jiabao, on 1 March, a statement on its website said.
[…] To “help allay public concern over official air quality readings”, levels of ozone and PM2.5 particles must be included. PM2.5 particulate matter is below 2.5 micrometres in diameter, or 1/30th the width of an average human hair, and easily penetrates lung tissue.
“This is a major step forward in terms of China’s process to combat urban air pollution,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. “The prerequisite for mobilising our people is to let them know what is going on.
[…] State media also acknowledged the role of bloggers: “A stirring campaign on the country’s social network websites since last autumn seemed to have gained a satisfying response from the country’s policymakers,” Xinhua news agency said.
The government first announced plans to include monitoring of PM2.5 in official air quality readings last fall, but has not been implemented the change until now. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has been monitoring and tweeting readings of air quality, including PM2.5, from their own rooftop monitor (and from space), but Chinese authorities have resisted doing the same. Late last year, domestic media reported that Beijing and Shanghai had in fact been monitoring PM2.5 levels but that authorities believed “the time was not ripe” to publicly release the data. In January, the Beijing government took the step of publicizing PM2.5 readings, though questions were raised about the accuracy of the government data.