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Beijing Pollution Data: More Information To Be Released

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BEIJING — A bureau in charge of monitoring China's frequently smog-choked capital will release more detailed reports, state media said Friday, following a public outcry over the hazards of fine particle pollution.

Beijing's decision to publish the data appeared aimed at appeasing residents' anger over the pollution and a lack of government transparency.

Frustration over the issue has been fueled by a Twitter feed set up by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing that reports air quality as measured by a monitor on the embassy roof and publishes it online every hour. Those readings include levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5 – a type of pollution that Beijing authorities also measure but keep secret from the public.

China's environmental ministry has said it will factor PM2.5 into national air quality standards, but not until 2016.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Beijing's environmental protection bureau will also now post hourly online readings for PM2.5 before Chinese New Year, which begins later this month. The city already has six monitoring stations measuring PM2.5 and will add more before the end of the year, Xinhua said.

Beijing is frequently cloaked in yellow haze. Buildings a couple of blocks away are barely visible. Still, Beijing's official air quality index records the pollution as "light" – a reading at odds with what many people experience.

Sometimes seen as soot or smoke, PM2.5 is tiny particulate matter – less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair – that can result from the burning of fuels in vehicles, power plants and agriculture. Breathing such fine particles causes respiratory problems and can lead to death.

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