Beijing air pollution 'hazardous': US embassy

Six Beijing highways were reportedly closed and over 200 flights delayed or cancelled as a result of Sunday's heavy fog
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.

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.

The Chinese capital is one of the most polluted cities in the world, mainly due to its growing -- much of which is still fuelled by coal-fired power stations -- and the high number of cars on the road.

A "hazardous" rating by the US embassy, whose evaluation of the city's quality often differs markedly from the official Chinese rating, is the worst on a six-point scale and indicates the whole population is likely to be affected.

The embassy has rated Beijing's air quality as hazardous on several occasions this month. On October 9, the reading was listed as "beyond index", meaning it went above measurable levels.

By contrast, China's environment ministry said Beijing's air was just "slightly polluted" on Sunday -- the most recent data available -- sparking a debate in China's state-run media and on the Internet.

Even the usually nationalist Global Times newspaper on Monday demanded an explanation for the disparity, urging the government to "be cooperative in avoiding confusing information" about air pollution.

"Figures by some local governments show the is dropping in some cities, such as Beijing... But some Beijing citizens complain the figures do not match their experience," it said in an editorial.

Residents of the capital expressed their fears over the effects on their health on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site similar to Twitter, with some reporting and dizziness.

"The pollution reading was again hazardous this morning. We are inhaling poisons," wrote a blogger under the name Xuemanzi.

In April, Beijing launched a five-year action plan to improve the environment by phasing out coal-fired boilers, saying it wanted excellent or good air conditions for 80 percent of the days in the year by 2015.

Authorities said they would refurbish highly polluting coal-fired boilers and stoves in six Beijing districts with equipment that uses clean energy, and also try to phase out 400,000 old, polluting vehicles before the end of 2015.

Beijing's weather bureau issued three heavy fog alerts on Sunday. Six highways closed and over 200 flights were delayed or cancelled as a result, Chinese media reports said.

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(c) 2011 AFP

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Oct 31, 2011
Holy crap, I say when you can't see more than a city block in front of you that it's most definitely not healthy to breathe in there!

Oct 31, 2011
I don't mind the Chinese poisoning their own cities, but that crap blows all the way to Seoul, sickening people and forcing millions more to remain indoors for days at a time. Koreans don't want to admit it. The Chinese don't give a flip. Wonder what the rest of the world would think if they knew? Probably nobody would care. Chinese pollution does nothing for western environmental political support, probabaly hurts their interests. So, everyone play your games. Pretend AGW is the boogie man.

Oct 31, 2011
I'm not a strong supporter of anthropogenic global warming, but I'm the supporter of anthropogenic global droughting. The aerosols are serving like the condensation nuclei, which are enabling the tiny droplets of smog to evaporate faster, than they could reach the surface of Earth.

Oct 31, 2011
This is one case where the debate around AGW serves as a gigantic distraction. Pollution like this, whether or not it adds to global climate change, delivers more immediate negative impacts to humans and our resources should be applied towards improving conditions.

Oct 31, 2011
I was in Beijing 20 years ago for two weeks, and the air pollution was so bad I decided never to return. My colleagues have told me it's even worse nowadays. Many cities in China are more polluted than Beijing.
This is of course a health tragedy for the Chinese people, but it is a global problem. As Mountain-guy noted, Koreans suffer directly from this pollution. Even on the West Coast of the USA, a sizeable fraction of the SO2 and mercury pollution originates in China. The effects on the Pacific Ocean are mostly acidification and mercury pollution. (Not to mention the AGW issues.)

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