Beijing's crackdown on air pollution has a new target: kitchens.
The Chinese capital, which just endured possibly the worst smog in months earlier this week, launched a three-month campaign against restaurant kitchen exhausts, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau announced on Friday.
The campaign mainly targets restaurants in downtown Beijing around densely inhabited neighborhoods. The campaign comes after Beijing authorities said they will impose stricter curbs on car use last month.
Indoor restaurants with excessive exhausts will face a fine of up to 3,000 yuan (S$610), the bureau said.
Restaurants without proper outdoor exhaust purification equipment will be banned from barbecuing. Violators will face a maximum penalty of 20,000 yuan.
In summer, kitchen exhausts can contribute to 15 to 20 per cent of the PM2.5 pollutants in downtown Beijing, according to 2012 research by Wang Yuesi of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. That makes kitchen exhausts the third-largest source of air pollution, after vehicles and pollutants drifting from neighbouring areas.
PM2.5 is particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, which can enter and harm people's lungs.
The components of the restaurant exhausts, high in fine particulate matter, are very complex, consisting mainly of volatile organic compounds. They pose a severe threat to residents' health, especially those who have heart and lung problems, said the research.
Many restaurants' exhaust equipment is not enough, said Wang Chunlin, head of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau's pollution prevention and control office.
Even if they have enough equipment, they fail to maintain or use it properly, Wang said.
According to the bureau, the public is quite unhappy about that. Of the 11,437 complaints the bureau received in the first half of this year, 60 per cent were about air pollution.
Of the complaints on air quality, exhausts from roadside restaurants came up most often, followed by car exhausts, industrial-waste gas, dust from construction sites and dust from coal-fired boilers.
"Smoke from roadside barbecues is a common source of PM2.5 and poses a serious threat to people's breathing systems," said Pan Xiaochuan, a professor at Peking University's School of Public Health.
Yang Yujie, a 63-year-old resident near Beixinqiao in Beijing's Dongcheng district, a community with many roadside eateries, said: "If you take a stroll after dinner, you will be choked by exhausts from roadside restaurants and outdoor barbecues."
According to the capital's clean-air action plan released last month, restaurants and catering services should have highly efficient exhaust hoods and facilities.
New restaurants cannot open unless they are equipped with exhaust equipment.
The plan also promises to ban all outdoor barbecues in downtown Beijing by the end of this year to cut down on roadside air and noise pollution.