Air pollution levels in China’s notoriously dirty capital have hit dangerous levels, with cloudy skies blocking out visibility and warnings issued for people to remain indoors. Local authorities have warned the severe pollution is likely to continue until tomorrow.
The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center has reported air quality readings between 176 and 442 from its monitors throughout the greater Beijing area since Friday.
The monitors measure the level of airborne PM2.5 particulates, which are tiny particles considered the most harmful to health.
The air is considered good when the reading is at 50 or below but hazardous with a reading between 301 and 500, when people are warned to avoid outdoor physical activities.
Monitors in urban Beijing all reported readings above 300 on Friday, and the center’s real-time readings showed Beijing remained heavily polluted yesterday with readings as high as 478 at 3pm.
Monitors at the US Embassy in Beijing recorded an off-the-chart air quality reading of 699 as of 3pm yesterday.
Readings can vary in different parts of the city and may also differ because the instruments used to measure the pollution levels are not always the same.
According to rules issued by the city government last month, all outdoor sports activities are to stop and factories have to reduce their production capacity if Beijing’s official air quality reading goes over 500.
Air pollution is a major problem in China with its rapid pace of industrialization, reliance on coal power, explosive growth in car ownership and disregard for environmental laws.
In Beijing, authorities have blamed a lack of wind and foggy conditions for the high concentration of air pollutants.
Several other cities, including Tianjin and southern China’s Wuhan, also reported severe pollution over the past several days.