Beijing engulfed by dangerous smog

January 17, 2014 - 7:10:00 am
BEIJING:  China’s capital was shrouded in dangerous smog yesterday, cutting visibility down to a few hundred metres as a count of small particulate pollution reached more than 25 times recommended levels.

A grey haze filled the sky, leaving an industrial, burning smell hanging in the air as PM2.5 reached over 500 microgrammes per cubic metre in parts of Beijing, according to official statistics.

Figures from the US embassy, which also monitors air quality, reached more than 671 in the early morning. The WHO recommends an exposure level of no more than 25 over a 24-hour period. 

The official air quality index reached the top of the scale at 500.

China’s cities are often hit by heavy pollution, blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use, and it has become a major source of discontent with the ruling Communist Party.

“I can’t believe how bad it is,” said US tourist Richard Deutsch in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing.  

Authorities have become more open about pollution levels, in part as a response to public pressure, but officials have implied that it will take years before the situation improves.

The pollution has been linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, and has tarnished the image of Chinese cities including Beijing, which saw a 10 percent drop in tourist visits during the first 11 months of 2013.       AFP