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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's air pollution standards are too lax, a senior environment official said in comments published on Friday, the highest level comment following complaints that authorities are understating the extent of smog that often envelops Beijing.

The level of air pollution in the capital varies, depending on winds. But in recent weeks, a cocktail of smokestack emissions, vehicle exhaust, dust and aerosols have blanketed the city in a pungent, beige shroud for days on end, prompting residents to denounce official readings of "slight" pollution as a gross undercount.

A Vice Minister of Environmental Protection, Zhang Lijun, appeared to agree in comments published by the official People's Daily.

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