China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection on Thursday released a list of its 10  most heavily polluted cities for January - with Beijing ranking ninth.
The list also includes Xingtai, Shijiazhuang, Baoding, Handan, Lanfang, Hengshui, Jinan, Tangshan and Zhengzhou.
Seven of the cities listed were in Hebei province - a major centre for China's steel industry - with Xingtai listed as the most polluted.
The 10 were pulled from an analysis of 74 mainland cities using the “newest air quality, monitoring and evaluation standards,” said MEP vice-minister Wu Xiaoqing at a meeting of the National Environmental Advisory and the Ministry of Environmental Protection Science and Technology committees.
Only in Haikou, Fuzhou, Zhoushan, Xiamen, Huizhou, Zhaoqing, Shenzehn, Kunming, Lhasa and Zhuhai was the air quality recorded better than the previous month.
The World Bank estimates  China is home to at least 16 of the world's most polluted cities.
Air pollution in the capital city hit record levels last month. The average level of PM2.5 - particles 2.5 microns or less in diameter - hovered near 200 for nearly the whole month. The World Health Organisation’s recommended level is 35.
The city’s Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said it would aim to bring the level of PM2.5 down to WHO standards by 2030 - a feat which a former MEP official told the Southern Metropolis Daily  on Thursday would take a “miracle”.