Northern China was smothered in smog for the forth time this season as China’s rapid industrialisation continues to wreck havoc. Flights were grounded as visibility fell to around 200 meters across Beijing.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing recorded an hourly peak level of PM2.5 (microscopic particles that penetrate into the lungs) at 526 micrograms per cubic metre. This is technically qualified as "beyond index," and is more than 20 times higher than the World Health Organization’s listed safety levels for a 24-hour period. This comes after the PM2.5 level peaked at 993 micrograms per cubic meter, almost 40 times the World Health Organization's recommended safe limit. In response to the situation, Beijing's administration has ordered 103 heavily polluting factories to cease production and told government departments and state-owned enterprises to eliminate a third of their car usage. The measures were in place until January 31st
The official Chinese PM2.5 readings were noticeably lower than the Americans with the Beijing estimate being as low as 433 micrograms per cubic metre on January 29th. The government have stated that due to a lack of wind over Beijing it is unlikely for the smog to dissipate quickly and the city government have advised residents to remain indoors whenever possible. The current situation seems to have been building for some time considering that over the last month the Jiangong Hospital has seen a 30 per cent spike in cases involving respiratory problems. Emergency Department chief Cui Qifeng explained: "People tend to catch colds or suffer from lung infections during the days with heavily polluted air."
Air pollution is a major problem in Beijing with celebrity bloggers - including real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi and reform-minded investor Xue Manzi, (who have a combined 24 million followers on China's microblogging sites) calling for legislation against pollution. The new mayor Wang Anshan has heavy expectations on his shoulders in regards to finding a solution to the problem. However considering China’s reliance on Coal usage and the massive increase in both state and privately owned cars it is questionable as to the degree which he will be able to have any effect.