Fri, May 05, 2017 - Page 6 News List

China issues air alerts over dust

Reuters, BEIJING

A cloud of dust envelops the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

A dust storm yesterday enveloped a swathe of northern China, dragging down air quality and visibility and prompting warnings for children and older people to stay indoors.

Spring is China’s dust storm season, when winds whip across the Gobi Desert picking up fine sand and dust particles and dumping them along a belt of heavily populated land further south.

The official People’s Daily said the worst of the storm would be concentrated on a remote area along the Mongolian border, but that Beijing and locations as far away as the remote northeast of China would be affected for at least 24 hours.

Official data from the Beijing government showed average readings of PM2.5, airborne particles measuring 2.5 micrometers or less that are small enough to penetrate the deepest part of creatures’ lungs and are a major component of China’s air quality index, had risen to 630 micrograms per cubic meter in parts of the city by yesterday morning, although it dropped slightly later in the day.

The WHO recommends concentrations of just 10 micrograms.

The city government said the storm would affect the capital until today in the afternoon, when air quality would improve as a high pressure system moved in.

State TV said older people and children should stay inside to avoid the worst effects.

The dust storm underlines the environmental problems China faces, added to concern about choking smog from coal-powered power plants and factories that also periodically covers much of north China.

The government has spent billions of dollars on projects to rein in the spread of deserts, planting trees and trying to protect what plant cover remains in marginal areas.

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