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China's pollution-ridden province keeps close watch on air pollutants

North China's Hebei province has set up more stations to precisely monitor pollutants in the air as its new efforts to fight against smog.

Since the beginning of this year, Hebei provincial environment protection department has ordered several cities to install devices to collect air pollution data, aimed at setting up a province-wide network.

Handan, one of the first group of cities to trial the precision of monitoring network, has installed 196 stations for air data collection, said officials with the city's environment protection bureau.

Sensors have been put up near key industrial plants, main thoroughfares and airways in the city to collect data on six main types of pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and two sizes of particulate matter.

Dust and volatile organic chemicals sensors have been installed near large construction sites and gas stations.

"If certain data goes high, our staff will respond immediately, track the source and send inspectors to intervene," said Gao Feng, deputy director of Handan environment monitoring center.

"In July, several monitoring stations reported high carbon monoxide levels. We immediately studied the data, and found the source of pollution was a steel factory to the north," he said.

"The steel factory is far from the city, and if it were not for the data, it would be hard to tell the cause," he added.

Hebei is aiming for a 40 percent cut in PM 2.5 (airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter) density by 2020 compared to 2013 levels, through slashing excessive industrial capacity.

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