Skip to main content

Beijing adopts emergency measures for 'hazardous' pollution

By Steven Jiang and Faith Karimi, CNN
updated 8:21 PM EST, Wed January 16, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Beijing recording "hazardous" levels of air pollution Monday
  • NEW: Children in worst-hit areas ordered to stop outdoor sports activities
  • Reports of respiratory problems -- and sale of masks -- skyrocket
  • The U.S. Embassy in Beijing records an index of over 700 on Sunday

Beijing (CNN) -- An acrid blanket of gray shrouded the Chinese capital for a third day Sunday, leading to a rare smog warning as the index hit record levels.

Data show air quality index soared past the highest level of 500. Anything past that is regarded as "beyond index."

As the number soared, the streets got emptier. The sun, peeking shyly behind the hazy blanket, was barely visible.

Authorities warned residents to cut down on outdoor activities and take shelter indoors.

Reports of respiratory problems -- and sale of masks -- skyrocketed, according to state media.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing recorded an index of over 700 on Saturday, but the number had lowered by Sunday.

Read more: Which city has best quality of life?

Beijing residents say pollution is worsening despite authorities' assertions that air quality has improved since the city hosted the 2008 Olympic Games.

Last year, heavy haze and smog forced the cancellation of almost 700 flights at Beijing airports.

The city is comparable to Los Angeles, another gray city, according to experts.

"With their difficult meteorological conditions and a large number of pollution sources, addressing pollution is a long-term and difficult task," Deborah Seligsohn, adviser of the World Resources Institute, said last year. The agency runs a climate energy and pollution program in China.

Los Angeles has battled air pollution since the 1950s, well before U.S. national regulation, according to Seligsohn.

"Stilll in the 1970s, 20 years later, it was famous for its smog," she said. "In the 40-plus years since the Clean Air Act was passed, L.A. has never been fully in compliance with EPA standards, even though it has continued to improve."

Read more: China must come clean on pollution

European Commission figures show that China produced 9.7 million kilotons of carbon dioxide while the United States had 5.42 million kilotons in 2011, the latest available numbers.

The weekend's pollution levels have prompted an "orange fog" warning in Beijing because of diminished visibility, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

"Pollutants have gradually accumulated over the course of recent windless days, making the air quality even worse," said Zhu Tong, an environmental sciences professor at Peking University told news agency.

Beijing will remain covered in gray until Wednesday, when the wind will sweep in to the rescue and blow the smog away, according to state media.

CNN's Steven Jiang reported from Beijing, Elizabeth Yuan wrote from Hong Kong and Faith Karimi from Atlanta

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:01 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
CNN's Brian Stelter talks with CCTV correspondent Jim Spellman on how the Chinese media has covered MH370's mystery.
China's economy has bested many others in just the past 10 years.
updated 2:02 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
In China, users of the "Life Black Box" website can set up final farewells to their friends in case they suddenly die.
updated 1:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
A recent university study claims Chinese micro-blogging activity might not be as vibrant as expected.
updated 6:14 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chinese art has been fetching some serious cash -- here's how we can elbow into the market
updated 10:51 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
A Shanghainese collector paid $36 million for this tiny cup decorated with chickens.
updated 2:57 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
Ben Richardson on corruption in China: a veil of secrecy shrouds the links between power and wealth.
China's economy is slowing and growth in 2014 could fall short of the government's official target, according to a CNNMoney survey of economists.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is the first foreigner to visit the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.
updated 9:26 PM EDT, Sun April 6, 2014
If the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 caused a rift in China-Malaysia relations, the two countries appear to have put it behind them.
updated 1:17 AM EDT, Fri April 4, 2014
Martin Jacques argues that in the twenty-first century, China will challenge our perception of what it is to be modern.
A new survey of university students in China shows where they most want to work. What are the dream employers for Chinese students?
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
What are President Xi Jinping's greatest goals as he visits the EU headquarters in Brussels?
Last year, thousands of Chinese tourists flocked to Yellowstone National Park to view the mountains, the buffalo and Old Faithful.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Mon March 31, 2014
A senior Bloomberg News journalist quit his role earlier this month, saying the "mishandling" by his bosses of a story critical of China was behind his departure.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
"The aim is to let [families of MH370 passengers] express anger while keeping them restrained," says a Chinese official.
updated 9:58 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama's secret weapon in China? Michelle.
updated 10:53 PM EDT, Wed March 26, 2014
Private schools that employ humanistic pedagogy for young children are becoming popular in China. A look at the factors behind the boom and potential pitfalls.
ADVERTISEMENT