updated 1/16/2008 8:58:12 AM ET 2008-01-16T13:58:12

Air pollution is worsening in the southern Chinese industrial powerhouse of Guangdong province, with the number of smog-filled days last year hitting its highest level since the founding of the communist state in 1949, the provincial weather office said Wednesday.

The capital of the province, also called Guangdong, recorded 75.7 hazy days in 2007, the Guangdong Meteorological Bureau said in a report posted on its Web site.

"The serious situation of hazy days shows the atmospheric pollution in Guangdong, especially in urban areas, is worsening," it said, adding industrial pollution and automobile exhaust were the main causes.

Conditions were even worse in the Pearl River delta, ground zero for China's export manufacturing industry which lies just across the border from Hong Kong, the report said. That area saw more than 100 hazy days, while the city of Xinhui recorded 238 days of smog.

Among the greatest threats to human health were the presence of fine particles in the air that can damage the respiratory system and other organs, the report said.

The Chinese government has been struggling to overcome horrendous pollution problems that have made its cities and rivers among the dirtiest in the world.

It has passed numerous laws to fight pollution, but is also worried that too much regulation will cut into economic growth.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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