Record Pollution Suffocates Beijing, China (PHOTOS)

If you’re looking to visit Beijing, China, in the near future you might want to consider packing a face mask in your suitcase. According to the Associated Press, one of the worst rounds of air pollution is currently engulfing the population there, keeping schoolchildren indoors and sending residents to hospitals.

According to the outlet, pollution peaked over the weekend, when off-the-charts levels hid the tops of city skyscrapers and caused face masks to fly off the shelves of drug stores. The news source reported that government monitoring showed levels of PM2.5 particles reached more than 700 micrograms per cubic meter on Saturday – a number that far outshadows the World Heath Organization’s safety levels of 25. At one point, separate monitoring by the U.S. Embassy reached 886 micrograms.

According to the Denver Post, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality index only goes up to 500, and the agency says anything greater than 300 would trigger a health warning of “emergency conditions.”

The pollution, which is a major problem throughout China, is mostly due to the country’s rapid pace of industrialization, which also includes a reliance on coal power and explosive growth in car ownership, not to mention a general disregard for environmental laws.

Things are starting to look up, though. Thanks to vocal residents and environmental groups, the government is being more transparent about the air pollution than usual. In the past, officials played down the smog, but this time they are holding news conferences and posting messages on the Internet that discuss the pollution.

For more amazing photos of the smoggy capital, click through the gallery below.


[Photo credit: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan]