Hospital visits rise during Beijing's choking smog (Update)

Jan 31, 2013 by Tom Hancock
Chinese military police march through Tiananmen Square blanketed in pollution in Beijing on January 30, 2013. Doctors in Beijing said Thursday that hospital admissions for respiratory complaints rose in recent days during the latest bout of pollution, as air quality in the city began to improve.

Hospital admissions for respiratory complaints rose 20 percent during the latest choking smog to hit Beijing, reports said Thursday as state media demanded greater government openness on pollution.

This week's pollution across vast swathes of northern China—the fourth serious case of toxic air in recent weeks—has sparked anger online and prompted unusually outspoken calls for action even from official media.

The number of patients admitted to several hospitals in the capital for breathing problems rose by a fifth in recent days, the Beijing Morning Post reported.

Half of those admitted to a children's hospital in the city were suffering from respiratory infections, the newspaper said, citing doctors.

The China Daily urged the government to reveal details of the causes of the pollution, saying departments had yet to provide "credible data".

Without such information "the government's promise to tackle the problem may fail to materialise", it said.

The pollution in the capital has been blamed on emissions from coal-burning in power stations and exhaust fumes from vehicles on choked streets.

The elderly, young and those with health problems in the city of 20 million were urged to stay indoors earlier in the week—or wear protective masks if they had to venture out—while dozens of flights were cancelled after visibility fell drastically.

Beijing has ordered the emergency closure of factories and removed government vehicles from the streets to try to reduce the haze, but experts say more radical controls are needed to combat the problem effectively.

Real estate tycoon and Internet blogger Pan Shiyi—who has 14 million followers on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter—has started a campaign for clean air legislation.

It had attracted more than 46,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

In a publicity stunt, another businessman has been pictured handing out cans of what he said was fresh air from China's regions to passers-by on the streets of the capital.

Social media users reacted angrily to comments from an official at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, who said developed countries took up to 50 years to solve their pollution problems.

"It will take years and years and cost taxpayers all their money," one user wrote.

State broadcaster CCTV quoted Zhong Nanshan, the president of the China Medical Association who revealed China's cover-up of the SARS epidemic of 2002, as saying: "Air pollution is much more scary than SARS, and affects the heart and veins."

Traffic policemen urged officials to change the dress code and let them wear face masks on duty, the China Daily reported.

"We need masks on duty because of the serious air pollution, but we first need approval from the ministry of public security," it quoted a spokesman for traffic police in the southern city of Changsha as saying.

The US embassy's air quality index in Beijing stood at 196 on Thursday evening, or "unhealthy", after it peaked at more than 500 on Tuesday.

The municipality's figure was 161 at 6:00 pm Thursday, or "lightly polluted".

The meteorological agency said the smog in Beijing was likely to begin to disperse on Thursday evening when the city would be hit by strong winds.

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Beijing hits 'blue sky' target despite bad air

Dec 18, 2011

Beijing authorities said they had met their target of "blue sky" days for 2011, amid growing public criticism that officials are underplaying the pollution problem in the Chinese capital.

Air pollution in Beijing reaches hazardous levels

Jan 12, 2013

Air pollution levels in China's notoriously dirty capital were at dangerous levels Saturday, with cloudy skies blocking out visibility and warnings issued for people to remain indoors.

'Off the scale' smog envelops Beijing again

Jan 29, 2013

Residents across northern China battled through choking pollution on Tuesday, as air quality levels rose above index limits in Beijing amid warnings that the smog may not clear until Thursday.

Beijing air pollution off the charts, US says

Feb 21, 2011

Thick smog blanketing Beijing went "beyond" measurable pollution levels on Monday, the US embassy said, as a Chinese official warned people to stay indoors and avoid outdoor activities.

Beijing air pollution 'hazardous': US embassy

Oct 31, 2011

Air pollution in Beijing reached "hazardous" levels on Monday, the US embassy said, as thick smog blanketed the city for the third day running, forcing the closure of highways and cancellation of flights.

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.