Successful clean air action has led to a dramatic reduction in air pollution in Beijing over the last few years, according to a new report published by a team of over 150 scientists.
The international group of researchers have spent the last five years using a range of equipment in central Beijing to measure how pollution composition and levels change at different heights above the city.
They found that particulate matter (PM2.5), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and black carbon were much lower than expected.
According to the report, this is largely due to the implementation of clean air strategies which have reduced the domestic use of solid fuels for cooking and heating.
However, within the wider project, the researchers also discovered that cooking oil emissions are a potential source of hazardous fine particles – suggesting that more stringent control may be needed within the city.
The research also revealed that road traffic is not a major source of primary PM2.5, but remains a significant source of nitrogen oxide (NOx).
Professor Roy Harrison, the lead UK principal investigator from the University of Birmingham, said: ‘High levels of air pollution pose a serious health risk to inhabitants of many Chinese cities.
‘We confirmed that Beijing’s air quality has improved significantly in recent years, but air pollution levels are still well above the WHO guidelines, leading to poor health and wellbeing for over 20 million people.
‘Our measurement work in Beijing has given us a much greater understanding of air pollutants in Beijing – where the pollution is coming from and how much there is. This, in turn, allows us to make recommendations to policy makers and help them make the decisions that will reduce air pollution levels in Beijing and other cities across China.’
Dr Caroline Culshaw, head of healthy environment at Natural Environment Research Council added: ‘Urban air pollution is a severe problem in many cities across the world with significant impacts on health and the economy.
‘This report is the culmination of five years of work and highlights the new scientific knowledge from the programme along with practical approaches to reduce pollution and improve health.
‘APHH-Beijing has been a hugely successful programme, showcasing large scale collaborative working across both national borders and the environmental and medical sciences to tackle global challenges.’
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