February 22, 2011

More Pollution Woes For Beijing

An independent assessment of air pollution in China by the US embassy showed that the thick smog covering Beijing went "beyond" measurable levels on Monday, as a Chinese official warned its citizens to avoid outdoor activities.

The assessment said that the pollution was either hazardous or "beyond index," meaning that air quality had plunged below the worst level on the scale.

Air quality in a majority of the city was at level five, -- the worst possible rating -- according to the Beijing Environmental Bureau. "Obviously elderly people and children should not go outside," a bureau official, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP.

The oppressive levels of smog are being blamed on rising temperatures and a lack of wind. The thick smog reduced visibility in parts of the city to less than 650 feet, the Beijing weather bureau said in a report.

The United Nations and other international organizations have consistently listed Beijing as having the world's worst air pollution.

Air quality is expected to remain poor until at least Thursday when winds from the north are expected to pick up and blow much of the thick smog away, according to weather bureau officials.

Although Beijing is home to numerous coal-fired power stations and more than 4.8 million cars on the road, strong winds were able to keep smog out of the city for most of this past January.

Image Courtesy Bobak/Wikipedia