China’s capital and 32 other cities suffered “Hazardous” air this weekend, local media reported. Choking smog has blanked Beijing, city of 20 million people, and hospitals were floods with patients seeking help for heart and respiratory ailments.
For the fourth straight day, health authorities in multiple Chinese cities advised residents to stay indoors Monday. The smog has a recording “beyond index” levels this weekend at air quality monitoring stations run by the government and one run by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Contributing factors include unusually cold temperatures, growth of steel, smelting, and petrochemical factories outside the city, and emissions by Beijing’s 5 million vehicles, local officials said. Emergency measures, such as shutting down some factors and limiting car use, were enforced. Meteorologists say the noxious air will linger until a cold front blows in on Jan. 15 and 16.
Unlike previous years, the government is providing increase disclosure of pollution data, and state media are making blanket coverage on the crisis; to some environmentalists, it shows some hope for change in this nation that emits the largest amount of greenhouse gases in the world and where priority of fast economic growth routinely swamps environmental concerns.
After public pressure, city governments have in the past year begun releasing measurements of PM2.5, tiny airborne particulates that pose the greatest health risks. On Saturday, parts of Beijing recorded PM2.5 levels more than 900 micrograms per cubic meter. The World Health Organization regards 25 micrograms per cubic yard a safe daily level.