Beijing, China – Beijing residents have been told to stay indoors as smog strikes the Chinese city once again.
The city’s 20 million-strong population has been warned by officials that smog has reached a potentially damaging peak, and that staying home would be beneficial for their health. Alarm over pollution in the city is understandable – on January 30, a US Embassy pollution monitor showed air quality hitting hazardous levels for the 19th day from the previous 25.
In an effort to battle the pollution, authorities have ordered selected factories to close. Drastically reduced visibility has already led to a significant number of government cars being ordered off the roads. Meanwhile, face masks sold by online merchants are proving to be popular purchases.
Earlier this month, smog in Beijing was reported to have hit a record level of 700 micrograms per cubic meter in many areas of the city.
The smog scare has resulted in energy-saving proposals from the very top of Chinese government. The official Xinhua news agency reports that Premier Wen Jiabao wishes to introduce new measures to reduce emissions and advance ecological progress.
Out on the Beijing streets, people seem perturbed by the shroud of dense smog enveloping the city. One 40-year-old woman, who was buying air purifiers for her home, told Bloomberg:
“I haven’t seen the smog stay so long like this for years. This seems to be the only solution for us. You used to just open the windows to get fresh air at home, but now you can’t do that since it’s even dirtier outside.”
Companies have also responded to the smog, with Apple, JPMorgan Chase, Toyota, and Honda all providing face masks and health tips to employees. Many Beijing-based companies have added office plants as the pollution rises in the city.
With Beijing residents told to stay indoors as smog strikes, and certain vehicles ordered off the roads, some residents find themselves unable to work. Others simply don’t have a place to work: The government has ordered 103 companies to halt production through January 31.
The aforementioned US Embassy pollution monitoring station found the concentration of PM2.5, the fine air particulates that are the most significant risk to human health, was 302 micrograms per cubic meter at 10am on January 30.
The World Health Organization recommends a round-the-clock exposure to PM2.5 of no higher than 25.
You can see the impact of Beijing’s frightening smog levels in the images below, courtesy of CNN: