"The snow is very dirty! The snow is very dirty! The snow is very dirty!" This thrice-emphasized warning from Beijing's Meteorological Bureau appeared on Chinese social media site Weibo on Thursday after the country's Ministry of Environmental Protection announced the city's average air-quality index for the past month came in at 195, with a high of 470, Time reports. To put that in context, the WHO notes that 25 is a generally safe level. And, apparently, the particles present in the air have settled into the precipitation, turning the city's first snowfall of the year on Thursday into what the magazine refers to as "toxic snow."
Residents venturing out in the capital have been informed that no one will think the worse of them if they use protection. "It is not pretentious to use an umbrella on a snowing smoggy day," the bureau notes, though it advises just staying indoors altogether. Beijing's smog has been an ongoing health hazard, triggering multiple "red alerts" over the past couple of years, and the smog currently plaguing the city (along with the accompanying orange alert) is expected to stick around until the weekend, per Shanghaist, which notes another smog-related story has grabbed headlines this week. Photos of a normally gleaming-white bullet train that sped 500 miles from Shanghai to Beijing went viral, with the train's grime-covered exterior looking like something out of an apocalyptic movie. (Some of the dirtiest air in the US can be found in an unlikely spot.)