Beijing Pollution Off the Charts—Again

On scale that goes to 500, it registers 526

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 29, 2013 6:52 AM CST

(Newser) Once again, air pollution in Beijing is literally off the charts. It's gotten so bad that airlines have had to cancel flights as locals wear face masks for protection, and state news says it's difficult to see beyond 100 yards in sections of eastern China. Airborne particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers has hit 526 micrograms per cubic meter, the US embassy says. That's "beyond index" (the scale goes to 500), and more than 20 times what the World Health Organization calls safe, the AP reports.

The government has closed 103 factories and cut its vehicle use by 30%, Reuters adds. Over the past two weeks, pollution levels have largely held to dangerous numbers; the WHO says anything above 20 isn't healthy, while above 300 is "hazardous." It's a particularly bad time for flights to be canceled, with travel peaking around the Chinese New Year on Feb. 10.

A child laughs as she passes by a smog-shrouded residential district in Beijing Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.
A child laughs as she passes by a smog-shrouded residential district in Beijing Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A couple wearing protective masks poses for a self portrait in thick haze on Tiananmen Square in Beijing Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.
A couple wearing protective masks poses for a self portrait in thick haze on Tiananmen Square in Beijing Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A man wears a mask on Tiananmen Square in thick haze in Beijing Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.
A man wears a mask on Tiananmen Square in thick haze in Beijing Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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