Beijing's Air Quality: On Scale of 500, It's 755
Pollution index sails way past 'hazardous'
By Polly Davis Doig, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2013 11:35 AM CST
Skyscrapers are obscured by heavy haze in Beijing Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. People refused to venture outdoors and buildings disappeared into the murky skyline as air quality went off the index.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

(Newser) – If experiencing Tehran's dismal air pollution is "suicidal," Beijing residents might want to dig a bunker and stay there. The Chinese capital, which wrinkled noses a couple of years ago when it managed to break the very index meant to measure its air quality, yesterday blew right by it, scoring a staggering 755 out of 500 at 8pm last night. As the New York Times puts it, "all of Beijing looked like an airport smokers' lounge," with skyscrapers fading into the haze and residents bolting doors and windows and running air purifiers full time to escape the smog.

The reading came from the US embassy's Twitter feed, which confirmed that the reading was not in fact a typo and that its monitor is functioning just fine. A little context for that 755: The WHO says that readings over 500 indicate 20 times the particulate matter deemed safe; New York City, in comparison, notched a 19 on the same scale yesterday. “This is a historic record for Beijing,” says a resident. Others, the Times notes, called it "post-apocalyptic" and "terrifying."