China's Hebei meets state smog standards for first time in August

FILE PHOTO: Chinese national flags are flying near a steel factory in Wu'an, Hebei province, China, February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The smog-prone northern Chinese province of Hebei met state air quality standards for the first time ever last month, official data showed, as it benefited from better weather, tough restrictions on polluters and slowing seasonal steel demand.

Heavy-industrial Hebei, which surrounds the Chinese capital Beijing, has been on the front line of a state war on pollution. It has been under heavy pressure to cut transport emissions, curb coal consumption and impose tougher standards on polluting sectors like steel.

Average concentrations of small and hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 reached 31 micrograms per cubic meter over the whole of last month, down 22.5 percent from the same period last year, the provincial government said on its website on Monday.

China’s interim standard for PM2.5 is 35 micrograms. The World Health Organization recommends concentrations of no more than 10 micrograms.

Average PM2.5 over the first eight months stood at 54 micrograms, down 18.2 percent compared with a year earlier, the provincial government said.

PM2.5 in Hebei averaged 65 micrograms last year. It aims to cut that to 55 micrograms by the end of 2020, and will eliminate or relocate more industrial capacity, convert boilers from coal to natural gas and take further action against diesel-fueled road freight in the next two years.

Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Richard Pullin