Severe air pollution and soaring smog levels in China have prompted the country’s environmental watchdog to consider a ban on barbecues in densely populated urban areas.
After draft guidelines were issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) earlier this month advising legislative control of barbecues in cities to cut emissions of pollutants, on Wednesday an anonymous MEP official said the guidelines were designed to provide a package solution to the country’s PM2.5 air pollution problem.
PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or less in diamter, which can embed in people’s lungs, China Daily reports.
The MEP official called on the public to stop barbecuing in cities and adopting a variety of environmentally-friendly changes. These include reducing energy consumption in the cooking process, and abstaining from using firecrackers in celebrations.
The MEP’s guidelines are a response to the extreme pollution that choked Beijing and large areas of northern China last month that left many residents literally breathless.
Soaring smog levels resulted in health fears and anger from residents, many of whom donned face masks. At the time the pollution in the capital was blamed on emissions from coal-burning in power stations and exhaust fumes from vehicles, and led to Beijing ordering the emergency closure of factories.
China’s state news agency Xinhua has now reported that barbecues are also part of the problem, based on a MEP study that recorded higher than normal PM2.5 readings after revelers used firecrackers to mark the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The draft guidelines also propose “significantly reducing” PM2.5 by 2020.
If adopted, the guidelines would provide a reference point for subsequent legislation, News.com reports.
According to the World Health Organization, there have been 500,000 pollution related deaths since 2008, with “respiratory related cancer” as the leading cause.
China’s rapid industrialization and its enormous use of coal in factories over the last few decades is cited by experts as the main reason for its pollution problem.