Schools and kindergartens on the mainland should fit air purifiers to protect pupils from China's smog, according to new national guidelines.
The National Health Commission issued a series of air pollution guidelines on Friday as part of a campaign that began last year to cut harmful pollution by 15 per cent and lower the density of airborne PM2.5 pollutants - particles of less than 2.5 microns in diameter - by 18 per cent by 2020.
Kindergartens, primary and middle schools, offices and indoor gyms should use purifiers to clean the air, the commission said as the country enters the winter smog season. Where conditions allowed, purifiers with a ventilator system to allow fresh air into buildings and purge high-density carbon dioxide should be used.
The commission's guidelines said the public needed to know how to protect themselves from smog, use anti-pollution devices and measures correctly and reduce their exposure to airborne contamination. They also called for cuts to coal burning, car use and barbecues.
On days when there was a "middle concentration level of smog", the windows of public buildings should be shut, while on days of high concentrations, schools and kindergartens should suspend outdoor activities, the latest guidelines said.
Doreen Lin, whose son is a Grade 3 primary school pupil in Shanghai, said she would support buying purifiers for the sake of the children's health but she was worried about the standard and maintenance of the equipment.
Lin said she checked the air quality every day and used the air cleaning system at her home on smoggy days.
"I think air conditioning has improved in the last two years," she said.
"In the past, when there was smog, I felt there was mud in my mouth and I felt uncomfortable while breathing. For some time, I even thought of escaping Shanghai to a small city with a good environment."
On Wednesday, Shanghai issued its first smog alert of the season, warning that the air was "seriously polluted" and putting the PM2.5 index at 204 by 2pm - more than 20 times the safe level established by the World Health Organisation.
On Monday, the PM2.5 reading for Beijing was 183.
Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said many of China's cities had made remarkable progress in air quality control since 2013, when the country took strict measures to curb pollution.
But some cities still did not meet the authorities' requirements, Ma said.
"Authorities found it easy to alleviate air pollution in the initial stages, with the task of mainly reducing dust and coal burning," he said.
"But as mainland cities hope for further cuts, it will be more difficult for the authorities because they need to adjust energy, economic and transport structures as well as enhance regional coordination."
Ma said that with the economic downturn and the effects of the trade war with the United States being felt across China, some cities gave in to pressure for growth and became less enthusiastic about protecting the environment.
However, on average, air quality throughout the year appeared to be improving, Ma said. In Beijing, the average PM2.5 level fell from 89.5 in 2013 to 51 last year.
In Shanghai, the environmental authority's statistics showed that the average PM2.5 reading was 35 in 2018, lower than the 62 recorded in 2013.
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