Skip to main content

Beijing adopts emergency measures for 'hazardous' pollution

By Steven Jiang and Faith Karimi, CNN
updated 12:18 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
  • U.S. Embassy in Beijing records an index of more than 700 micrograms Sunday

Beijing (CNN) -- Schoolchildren were ordered to halt outdoor sports activities until Tuesday this week, as a dirty cloud of smog continued to shroud China's capital.

This was among a series of emergency response measures adopted in Beijing Sunday when the city's Air Quality Index exceeded 500 micrograms, the highest level. Anything above this is regarded as "beyond index."

Reports of respiratory problems -- as well as the sale of masks -- have skyrocketed, according to state media, and over the weekend, streets appeared emptier, as a sun was barely visible amid a hazy blanket.

On Monday morning the U.S. Embassy in Beijing recorded "hazardous" levels of pollution, with a "Beyond Index" reading of 515 at 3:00 a.m. (2 p.m. Sunday) local time, last seen on Saturday when the air quality index, based on U.S. national air quality standards, hit as high as 755.

Read more: Which city has best quality of life?

Beijing's bad air quality
Beijing's pollution merely 'hazardous'
'I haven't seen the sun' in four days
Greenpeace on Beijing's hazardous smog

Beijing Hyundai Motor Company suspended production on Sunday, and nearly 30 construction sites halted construction, the China Daily cited the city's environmental protection bureau as saying.

The city's 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.

CY Xu in Beijing and Faith Karimi in Atlanta contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:13 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
updated 11:15 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
updated 10:54 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
updated 10:29 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
 A man uses his smartphone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 53.5% of Japanese owned smartphones in March, according to a white paper released by the Ministry of Communications on July 15, 2014. The survey of a thousand participants each from Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, South Korea and Singapore, demonstrated that Japan had the fewest rate of the six; Singapore had the highest at 93.1%, followed by South Korea at 88.7%, UK at 80%, and France at 71.6%, and U.S. at 69.6% in the U.S. On the other hand, Japan had the highest percentage of regular mobile phone owners with 28.7%. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
updated 8:20 PM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
The massive street rallies that have swept Hong Kong present a major dilemma for China's leadership.
updated 3:07 AM EDT, Sat September 27, 2014
Chinese wine drinkers need to develop a taste for the cheap stuff, not just premium red wines like Lafite.
updated 9:09 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.
updated 10:18 AM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
updated 10:57 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
China has no wine-making tradition but the country now uncorks more bottles of red than any other.
updated 5:29 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
updated 1:38 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
ADVERTISEMENT