Beijing one of China's worst offenders in air pollution in May

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s capital was once again identified as one of the worst places for air quality in May, ministry data showed on Wednesday, although general air quality in its nearby regions improved.

Concentration of small breathable particles, known as PM2.5, rose 8 percent to 54 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing last month, ranking the city at No.5 from the bottom of total 74 major monitored cities, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said in a statement.

It did not give explanation, but pointed out that “unfavorable weather conditions” and “increasing emissions from industrial operations” were major reasons for declining air quality in April.

The smog-prone Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, however, saw a decline in PM2.5 level last month - down 6.4 percent to 44 micrograms per cubic meter from a year ago - although Tangshan, Shijiazhuang, Handan and Baoding city in Hebei also appeared in the bottom 10 for worst performance on air pollution control.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said last week that the city would step up anti-pollution measures this year, targeting dust, volatile organic compounds, produced by burning fossil fuels, and diesel exhausts.

A level of PM2.5 in 25 cities in the Yangtze River Delta region rose 5.6 percent to 38 micrograms per cubic meters compared to May last year, the ministry data showed.

China aims to keep national concentrations of PM2.5 below 35 micrograms by around 2035.

The ministry has warned ozone pollution could be the major air contaminant during summer months, which according to studies has caused an increase in deaths from strokes and heart disease.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Tom Daly; Editing by Nick Macfie