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Press China to take measures against its horrendous pollution

Publication Date : 06-03-2014

 

Air pollution is becoming ever more serious in China. It is mainly caused by a high density of particulate matter 2.5, or PM2.5, which is apparently reaching Japan on a massive scale after sweeping over the sea.

Immediate measures must be taken to curb PM2.5. There is no time to waste.

PM2.5 is the general term for the microparticle substances with a diameter of up to 2.5 micrometres (one micrometre is equivalent to one-thousandth of a millimetre). Their size is about one-tenth that of a grain of Japanese cedar pollen, and they can travel deep into the lungs once inhaled. Experts say that PM2.5 causes such diseases as asthma and bronchitis.

At one point on February 26, the concentration of PM2.5 exceeded 500 micrograms per cubic metre of air in Beijing. In Japan, local governments issue alerts to the public if the daily average amount of PM2.5 exceeds 70 micrograms per cubic metre. Beijing’s figure shows how serious China’s air pollution has become.

The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, a public research organisation, has warned that Beijing’s pollution is “approaching a level unsuitable for inhabitation”. Air pollution is also becoming acute in cities and regions other than Beijing.

The rapid increase of PM2.5 is caused by soot produced when burning coal, as well as vehicle emissions. Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled around smog-covered Beijing and ordered factories to curb their use of coal. Xi also ordered regulations for car usage.

Ineffective measures

The Chinese government has periodically announced measures to tackle air pollution, but no significant improvement has been seen. We believe the reason for this is that many factories have ignored government regulations, putting short-term profits ahead of environmental issues.

The National People’s Congress was set to convene Wednesday, and air pollution is likely to be one of the main issues on the agenda. We urge the Chinese government to take this opportunity to come up with comprehensive measures to deal with the problem.

From now on, Japan and South Korea will have to bear the full brunt of PM2.5 sweeping from China as westerly winds become stronger.

On February 26, the day China’s PM2.5 concentration exceeded 500 micrograms per cubic metre, the particulate concentration rose in wide areas of western Japan and the Hokuriku region, prompting 10 prefectural governments to issue alerts.

Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said the main cause of the phenomenon was “transborder pollution caused by China”.

It will be crucial for the Environment Ministry and local governments to continue providing prompt detailed information on PM2.5 to the public.

Of course, the issuance of alerts does not mean that people are under immediate threat to their health. We urge people to act calmly, refrain from going out unless necessary and avoid opening windows or using ventilators.

People who have respiratory or heart problems, as well as elderly people, should especially be careful of their health. The physical conditions of children should also be monitored frequently.

This month, officials from Japan, China and South Korea will hold a policy dialogue to discuss measures to deal with the PM2.5 problem in Beijing. It will be an important opportunity to share PM2.5 data, but it is also essential to pressure China to reinforce measures to curb emissions of the microparticle substances.

 

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