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BEIJING (Reuters) - China plans to release hourly air pollution monitoring data in 74 of its biggest cities starting on New Year's Day, state media said on Sunday, in a sign of increasing responsiveness to quality-of-life concerns among prosperous urban people.

Choking pollution and murky grey skies in Chinese cities is a top gripe among both Chinese and expatriates.

Microscopic pollutant particles in the air have killed about 8,600 people prematurely this year and cost $1 billion in economic losses in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi'an, according to a study by Beijing University and Greenpeace that measured the pollutant levels of PM2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

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