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Road pollution takes its toll

Pollution in Beijing is leading to serious health problems

Hospital's in China's s capital are reporting a worrying increase in the numbers of people being admitted for a range of health problems due to heavy smog. Ding Rongjing, a doctor at the Peking University People's Hospital, claimed the number of heart attacks more than doubled in the weeks where the smog was heaviest, and that they were also inundated with patients showing symptoms of “high blood pressure, feelings of suffocation and chest pains”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) sees the growing number of illnesses as an “unwanted consequence” of the nation's 32% jump in car sales in 2010. Now there are 4.8 million cars in the northern capital, three times the amount ten years earlier. As well as triggering asthma and other respiratory conditions, evidence suggests that dirty air may damage the heart and blood vessels, and possibly even lead to birth defects.

Beijing fireworks

Fireworks are let off by Beijing residents Image: Michael Kan

In an effort to tackle the cities pollution problems, Beijing will introduce National V emission standards for motor vehicles in the first half of this year. The new standard will require fuel sulphur levels below 10 parts per million (ppm), one fifth of the previous National IV standard.

Since last January, Beijing has imposed a monthly limit of 20,000 new car registrations, which has led to a 70% decrease in sales. Other Chinese heavily polluted cities, like Shenzhen or Guangzhou, are considering introducing similar policies. However, Credit Suisse have warned that implementing the same policies in other Chinese cities might cause car sales to plummet by as much as 17%.

However, vehicles are not the only cause of pollution in the capital.  The latest smog clouds have prompted a number of environmental organisations to call on the government to dramatically curtail the use of fireworks during the Chinese New Year festivities, or even ban them entirely except for large public displays.

While not agreeing to a total ban this year, the government introduced tighter regulations of the use and types of fireworks, was forced into publishing air pollution figures on an hourly basis throughout the festival period.  The new rules also stated that Fireworks could only be lit for 24 hours on January 23 and between 7 am to midnight from January 24 to February 15.

Tags: China, Environment and Regulatory watch, Environment, regulatory and standards

Published 23rd January, 2012

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