A new air quality monitoring system will keep track of PM 2.5 at a station situated between China's Beijing and Tianjin municipalities. PM 2.5 refers to the fine airborne particles that are considered extremely hazardous to people's health as they go deeper into the lungs than the larger particles that exist in the air.
The Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences has joined forces with the Tianjin Municipal Meteorological Bureau to establish the first comprehensive atmospheric environment monitoring system for the Beijing-Tianjin area.
Advanced equipment at the facility in Wuqing, to the northwest of Tianjin, not only monitors the density of PM 2.5, particulate matter under 2.5 micrometers in size, around the clock, but is also able to analyze their constituents to determine the composition of the exact pollutants, the Tianjin Daily reports.
China currently uses PM10, or particular matter under 10 micrometers, to measure air quality, but the public has urged government authorities to apply the tighter PM 2.5 standard.
Aside from PM 2.5 matter, which is believed to come mainly from industrial discharges and vehicle exhausts, the new system will also monitor the trace gases in the air, such as ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide, the Beijing Times reports.
The Wuqing station will study the migration of the pollutants between the two cities and the generation of the secondary pollutants; analyzing the cause of the air pollution in the region.
The monitoring data will be used for scientific research only and will not be made available to the public, the Beijing Times reports. The system, however, will provide early warnings for major cases of air pollution, the Beijing News reports, adding that the station will bring in more advanced equipment to analyze the density changes and flows of PM 2.5.
Wuqing district is 70 kilometers from Beijing and 25 kilometers from the urban area of Tianjin.
China's Ministry of Environmental Protection began soliciting public feedback in November regarding the draft of the revised Environmental Air Quality Standards, which includes the measurement of PM 2.5 and ozone density.
The ministry said the new standards will be fully implemented in 2016, adding that local governments are encouraged to implement it earlier.
Compared to coarser matter, PM 2.5 carries more toxicants and hazardous materials, stays in the air longer and travels further. The PM 2.5 standard has already been enforced in Japan, the U.S., India and the EU.
As grey smog blanketed the Chinese capital city in late October, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing rated the air as "hazardous," whereas the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said the pollution was "slight."
It was later discovered that the discrepancy resulted from different air pollution standards adopted by the two countries, the Xinhua news agency reports.
China doesn't include PM 2.5 in its air rating standard, despite it being the major cause for choking smog. The United States does.
The discrepancy triggered calls from celebrities to ordinary Internet users calling for the use of tighter monitoring standards to rein in Beijing's notorious air pollution.