China's average air quality worsens in October on the year

FILE PHOTO: Apartment blocks are seen in smog on the outskirts of Tianjin, China, October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Average air quality in 338 Chinese cities worsened in October, the environment ministry said on Friday, despite the launch of a six-month winter campaign to cut emissions in northern regions.

Concentrations of hazardous breathable particles known as PM2.5 rose 5.6 percent on the year to an average of 38 micrograms per cubic meter, and stood at 41 micrograms over the first 10 months, unchanged from a year earlier, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) said.

From January to October, the data showed, China’s five smoggiest cities were all located in the province of Hebei, which is the biggest steel producing region and a major consumer of coal.

The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region saw PM2.5 emissions fall 10.3 percent to 61 micrograms in October, but the average over the first 10 months remains 8.5 percent higher than last year, largely as a result of near record smog in January and February.

China’s official air quality standard is 35 micrograms, compared to levels of no more than 10 micrograms recommended by the World Health Organization.

In October, the first month of the campaign kicked off by 28 cities in and around the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region to cut PM2.5 concentrations by at least 15 percent, 24 cities fell short of the target, the environment ministry said.

Eleven even saw emissions rise.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Clarence Fernandez