Beijing, 14 November, 2016 – In 2013 Greenpeace East Asia, in collaboration with the Public Health Faculty of Peking University, reported that PM2.5 in Beijing contained levels of the heavy metal and group 1 carcinogen, arsenic, 3.85 times higher than the national standard.[1] The report also found worryingly high levels of two other carcinogens, cadmium and lead.

New research by Greenpeace East Asia and the Beijing Environmental Mutagen Society shows that all three elements have fallen rapidly. Arsenic concentration levels fell by 90.4% and now meet the national standard.

“The fall in heavy metals concentrations in PM2.5 in Beijing is directly linked to the closure of coal fired power plants around the city,” said Greenpeace East Asia climate and energy campaigner, Dong Liansai.

The burning of coal is the principle source for all three heavy metal elements in Beijing’s air.[2] 84.6% of arsenic contained in coal enters the air during the process of burning coal.[3]

Beijing’s last operating coal power plant will be closed by the end of March 2017.[4]

Given that all three elements are carcinogenic and a major risk to public health, other municipal governments around the country should learn from Beijing’s policy of closing coal power plants and reducing coal consumption.

  Arsenic Lead Cadmium
Concentration, 2012-13 23.08Ng/m3 244.10Ng/m3 4.20Ng/m3
Concentration, 2015-16 2.22Ng/m3 81.40Ng/m3 1.40Ng/m3
Rate of change -90.4% -66.7% -33.3%
National standard 6Ng/m3 500Ng/m3 5Ng/m3

Notes to editors:

[2] 《北京城区 PM2. 5 中致癌重金属季节变化特征及其来源 分析》,Environmental Science, February 2014,

Media contacts:

Tom Baxter

International Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia

[email protected]

+86 1881 1344 861