Beijing targets new PM2.5 monitor protocol

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Beijing has begun building a new protocol to monitor the effects air pollutants have on human health, particularly the PM2.5 particles, according to a senior disease control official.

Beijing shrouded in heavy fog.

Beijing shrouded in heavy fog. [File photo] 

The surveillance system will look at medical and mortality records and compare them to levels of fog and haze to enable targeted intervention, said Xu Dongqun, deputy director of the institute of environmental health and related product safety at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

PM 2.5 refers to particulate matter in haze and fog measuring 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, which generally comes from activities that burn fossil fuels, such as traffic, smelting, and metal processing.

Xu said by studying the links, environmental monitors will be able to assess the exact health risks posed by the fine particulates and, if needed, issue timely alerts.

The system will be first implemented on a trial basis in Beijing and then expanded to five other regions before being introduced nationwide.

It will also establish the possible sources of any fog and haze as well as the exact nature of the pollutants and give residents warning of possible areas to avoid, she said.

"Knowing clearly the types and sources of pollutants can also help the government to come up with more efficient measures to control air pollution in general," Xu said.

The World Health Organization said in a 2005 report that it was possible to derive a quantitative relationship between pollution levels and specific health complaints.

But previously, China had no nationwide surveillance network for that, Xu said.

Last month, Beijing started to issue its PM 2.5 readings.

Pollutants can cause a range of health problems, but they are primarily responsible for decreased lung capacity, shortness of breath, coughing and eye and nose irritation.

Monitoring and legislation can be of immense benefit in efforts to ensure good air quality.

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