Air pollution in many mainland cities remained serious yesterday after environmental authorities blamed high index readings on festival fireworks.
"Heavy air pollution" was recorded in 68 of the 161 cities monitored, while 16 experienced "severe air pollution" on Thursday night as fireworks were set off across the country to celebrate the Lunar New Year, the Ministry of Environment Protection said on Friday.
The heavy concentration of fireworks was the main reason for the bad air quality across the nation, a ministry official said.
In Beijing, the municipal environmental monitoring centre said the air was "much better" than at the same time last year after city officials decided to reduce the number of fireworks retailers.
The capital's air quality index reached 240 at 7am yesterday, deemed serious, but it had eased to 168 by 4pm.
In Shijiazhuang in Hebei province, which is known for its smog, the index read 254 at noon.
The most polluted city yesterday afternoon was Xuzhou in Jiangsu, with its index reaching 437. Hefei in Anhui was not far behind, at 390.
Any reading above 300 indicates severe pollution and the index stops at 500.
In Beijing, officials put up posters to warn residents that setting off fireworks in the streets would affect air quality.
The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre said on its website: "You may as well watch Spring festival shows on TV at home.
"And keep the firecrackers on hand until the fifth day of the first Lunar month."