Hazardous pollution threatens Beijingers

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AIR pollution readings in China’s capital were at dangerously high levels for the second day running yesterday, with authorities urging people to stay indoors.

Local officials warned that the severe pollution in Beijing – reportedly the worst since the local government began collecting data a year ago – was likely to continue until Tuesday.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre said on its website that the density of PM2.5 particulates had reached 700 micrograms per cubic metre in many parts of the city, a level considered ­extremely hazardous.

The air quality started to deteriorate on Thursday and the monitoring centre said yesterday that the pollution was expected to linger for the next three days. It urged residents, especially those with respiratory problems, the elderly and children, to stay home as much as possible.

The air quality data is the worst in Beijing since the municipal government ­began to track PM2.5 particulates early last year, said Zhou Rong of the environmental organisation Greenpeace.

Monitors at the US Embassy in Beijing said the PM2.5 density had reached 886 micrograms per cubic metre at 8pm on Friday. It was unclear whether the embassy’s data was the worst since it began collecting and sharing such information in 2008.

Air pollution is a major problem in China due to the country’s rapid pace of industrialisation, reliance on coal power, explosive growth in car ownership and disregard to environmental laws. It typically gets worse in the winter because of heating needs.

Authorities in Beijing blamed foggy conditions and a lack of wind for the high levels of air pollutants.