More than 1,500 people have contacted China’s environment ministry to urge changes in the way it monitors pollution, amid accusations that authorities are underplaying the problem.
The ministry said last month it was planning to amend the way it measures air quality to include the smaller particles that experts say pose the greatest health risk, inviting the public to comment on the proposal.
Public anger over heavy pollution in China has been compounded by official data saying air quality is good, or only slightly polluted, when smog is visible and figures published by the US embassy rank it as “very unhealthy.”
Chinese authorities currently use a method known as PM10, focusing on larger particles in the air.
However, the government has proposed adopting the system favored by the US embassy, which measures the smallest and most dangerous airborne pollution, known as PM2.5.
The environment ministry also said it was proposing to include ozone readings and “set tighter rules for some pollutants already monitored, such as PM10 and nitrogen oxide.”
A statement on the ministry’s Web site dated Tuesday said it received more than 1,500 submissions in the 21-day consultation period that ended on Monday.
“The suggestions generally favored the proposal that the revised Ambient Air Quality Standards should include PM2.5,” it said.
The ministry set Jan. 1, 2016 as the proposed date it would implement the change, but the official China Daily said yesterday that many of the messages the ministry received called for faster action.
The China Daily has said that if the PM2.5 standard was adopted nationwide, only 20 percent of Chinese cities would be rated as having satisfactory air quality, against the current 80 percent.
Yesterday the paper urged the government to respond to public pressure, which comes in the same week that thick smog in Beijing forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights at the world’s second-busiest airport.
“Simply sticking our heads in the sand so we can’t see the sky won’t make the problem disappear. The government needs to be brave enough to face up to the problem,” the paper said in an editorial.