China’s Most Polluted Cities of 2013

| February 13th, 2014

Greenpeace China released the summary of its 2013 survey of Chinese air quality, and the results are clear: The air isn’t.

Of the 74 cities in the report, none of them met the World Health Organization’s recommendations for particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less (PM2.5). Only five met the Chinese government’s less stringent standards for PM2.5 levels. In 2012, the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection established an annual standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter for PM2.5. The WHO recommends a maximum of 10 micrograms per cubic meter, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard is 12. By any measure, China’s air is excessively polluted.

The worst polluted province is Hebei. Seven of its cities measured over 3 times the Chinese standard for PM2.5, and all six of the worst polluted cities are in Hebei. The worst city of all was Xingtai in southern Hebei. It averaged 155.2 micrograms per cubic meter.

Beijing, often the focus of media attention, finished 13th, with an average of 90.1, behind Xi’an and Tianjin among big cities, and just ahead of Wuhan and Chengdu.

Overall, northern China is much more polluted than southern China. Each of the top 13 most polluted cities were north of the Huai River, a traditional dividing line located in Henan.

Southern coastal cities are the least polluted. Each of Guangdong’s cities ranked among the 20 least polluted cities, and six of the nine average less than 50 micrograms per cubic meter. Both of Fuzhou’s cities, Fujian and Xiamen, met China’s standards, averaging 33.2 and 31.3 respectively. Finally, Haikou, on the paradise island of Hainan, south of Guangdong, was the least polluted of all, averaging 25.6 micrograms per cubic meter.

The 74 cities were chosen because they are among the first to implement new air quality standards put in place by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The top 20 worst polluted cities are as follows:

Ranking City Province Average Annual PM2.5 Measure Highest PM2.5 Measure
1 Xingtai Hebei 155.2 688
2 Shijiazhuang Hebei 148.5 676
3 Baoding Hebei 127.9 675
4 Handan Hebei 127.8 662
5 Hengshui Hebei 120.6 712
6 Tangshan Hebei 114.2 497
7 Jinan Shandong 114.0 490
8 Langfang Hebei 113.8 772
9 Xi’an Shaanxi 104.2 598
10 Zhengzhou Henan 102.4 422
11 Tianjin Tianjin 95.6 394
12 Cangzhou Hebei 93.6 380
13 Beijing Beijing 90.1 646
14 Wuhan Hubei 88.7 339
15 Chengdu Sichuan 86.3 374
16 Wulumuqi Xinjiang 85.2 387
17 Hefei Anhui 84.9 383
18 Taizhou Jiangsu 80.9 474
19 Taizhou Jiangsu 80.8 513
20 Changsha Hunan 79.1 325

Other notable cities:

24 Nanjing Jiangsu 75.3 312
47 Qingdao Shandong 61.7 280
48 Shanghai Shanghai 60.7 421
55 Guangzhou Guangdong 52.5 159
57 Dalian Liaoning 50.7 224

The 10 least polluted cities:

Ranking City Province Average Annual PM2.5 Measure Highest PM2.5 Measure
1 Haikou Hainan 25.6 130
2 Lasha Tibet 26.0 101
3 Xiamen Fujian 31.3 89
4 Danshan Zhejiang 32.1 353
5 Fuzhou Fujian 33.2 112
6 Kunming Yunnan 35.5 123
7 Huizhou Guangdong 37.2 121
8 Zhuhai Guangdong 37.9 157
9 Shenzhen Guangdong 39.7 131
10 Zhangjiakou Hebei 43.1 471

View Greenpeace’s full report (in Chinese) here.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article mislabeled Xi’an as being a part of Shanxi province. Xi’an is actually a part of Shaanxi province.


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