Beijing faced some of its worst smog levels ever starting Friday, when the government raised the city’s four-tiered smog alert to “orange,” the second-highest level on the Chinese government’s air pollution urgency system. The alert prompted schools to cancel outside sports and health officials to issue advisories suggesting children and the elderly stay indoors.
The orange level alert was raised on Friday as heavy smog rolled into China’s capital, blanketing the city in a thick, gray haze that is expected to last for the next three days. According to the Associated Press, government officials were reluctant to raise the urgency level to orange because it would be difficult to enforce certain measures – like taking half of the city’s cars off the road – meant to alleviate high levels of pollution, but public outcry on the Internet and in the media pressured the government to issue the warning.
“When the alert is at a low level, the measures are not effective, but those for the high-level alert are not feasible,” Ma Jun, of the non-governmental Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing, told the Associated Press. “The government is reluctant to raise the alert level.”
Beijing’s tiered air pollution alert system was introduced last October. Despite periods of heavy and dangerous smog, the plan’s stricter measures have never been implemented.
The orange alert also led to bans on barbeques, fireworks and even halted demolition work in the city. Reuters reports that if the pollution urgency alert is raised to “red” – the highest level – the government would be forced to close schools and yank half the city’s vehicles off the road, based on the last number on their license plates.
According to Reuters, city officials sent inspectors to several factories around the capital and warned them that any emissions violations they found would be met with fines.
If the current level of air pollution in Beijing lasts for more than three days, the government will have to raise the urgency level to red.
In January, Beijing officials recorded dangerous levels of poisonous smog. Density readings that measure the amount of particulate matter in the air exceeded 500 micrograms per cubic meter – about 20 times as high as what the World Health Organization considers safe.
Over the past several decades, as China has rapidly developed, tons of pollutants have been spewed into the air. Health officials estimate that China’s air pollution is killing hundreds of thousands of people every year. Between 2002 and 2011, lung cancer cases in Beijing nearly doubled. …
This situation is disgusting and shameful, a great example of lies and collectively broken priorities. Auto pollution is only 4% of the problem. Everyone there must wake up, understand the most significant contributors and then care enough to change and stop fouling the air. There is no doubt that the air pollution is killing people. Is that what you get in Beijing for murder, a fine?
Emissions from coal plants in China were responsible for a quarter of a million premature deaths in 2011 and are damaging the health of hundreds of thousands of Chinese children, according to a new study.
The study by a US air pollution expert, commissioned by Greenpeace, comes as many areas in northern and eastern China have been experiencing hazardous levels of air pollution in recent weeks.
In some eastern cities including Shanghai, levels were off the index that tracks dangerous pollution, with schools closing and flights being cancelled or diverted. Sales of air purifiers and face masks have soared with many retailers selling out of stock as residents try to protect themselves from the poisonous smog. In Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces visibility was reduced to less than 50 metres earlier this week and in the city of Nanjing a red alert for pollution was maintained for five consecutive days.
The analysis traced the chemicals which are made airborne from burning coal and found a number of health damages were caused as a result. It estimates that coal burning in China was responsible for reducing the lives of 260,000 people in 2011. It also found that in the same year it led to 320,000 children and 61,000 adults suffering from asthma, 36,000 babies being born with low weight and was responsible for 340,000 hospital visits and 141 million days of sick leave.
“This study provides an unprecedentedly detailed picture of the health fallout from China’s coal burning,” said Dr Andrew Gray, a US-based expert on air pollution, who conducted the research. Using computer simulations, Gray said he was able to “draw a clear map tracing the trail of health damages left by the coal fumes released by every power plant in China, untangling the contribution of individual companies, provinces and power stations to the air pollution crisis gripping the country.”