October 26, 2016

Beijing issues severe smog warning

A woman wearing a mask walks through a street covered by dense smog in Harbin, northern China. Photograph: AP

China has raised the air pollution alert level to its second-highest for the capital city of Beijing, calling on residents to stay indoors.

Authorities issued an “orange level” alert in Beijing on Sunday after pollution readings reached 17 times the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization.

The declaration of the orange level will mandate air polluting factories and industrial plants to reduce or shut down production. It also bans heavy-duty trucks from the capital’s roads.

According to the air pollution monitor that is operated by the US Embassy in Beijing, the intensity of the poisonous, tiny particles known as PM2.5 reached over 400 micrograms per cubic meter in some of areas. This is while the World Health Organization considers 25 micrograms per cubic meter as a safe level.

A man wears a mask amid heavy air pollution in the Chinese capital, Beijing, November, 30, 2015. Visibility has reportedly fallen to a few hundred meters in some places in Beijing. (Photo by AFP)

Air pollution, which has reportedly reduced visibility to a few hundred meters in some places, poses a threat to the health of those living and working in the capital and other cities in northern China.

According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the smog will remain high across northern China for another two days.

The problem is perennial in the Asian country’s northeast, which is home to many heavy industries including coal mining. Locals in the area usually burn coal to heat homes in the winter, pumping more pollutants into the air. Humidity and the lack of wind exacerbates the pollution and contribute to the prolongation of the smog.

China has a four-tier color-coded air pollution warning system, with red representing the highest response level. The second dangerous level is represented by orange, which is followed by yellow and blue. No red alert, however, has been issued so far in Beijing.

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