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Beijing Warns Residents to Stay Indoors as Air Turns Hazardous

Beijing warned people to stay indoors as air pollution in China’s capital hit its highest level in at least a month.

Air quality measured at all Beijing’s monitoring sites “reached serious pollution levels this morning” and people should “avoid outdoor activities,” the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its official account on Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblog service. It was the city’s fifth health warning since Jan. 1, when China adopted more stringent monitoring standards in 74 cities.

The U.S. Embassy said on its Twitter feed that pollutants reached “hazardous” levels and were at their worst since at least Dec. 1. The U.S. monitors Beijing’s air quality from a station atop the embassy building in east Beijing.

Before hosting the 2008 Olympics, Beijing imposed driving limits, suspended work at construction sites and moved factories out of the city to clean up the capital’s air. Beijing has targeted transforming all its heating plants to burning natural gas instead of coal by the end of 2015.

An online map published by the Beijing center showed all of its city monitoring stations colored deep purple, the worst of six air pollution levels. When pollution hits that level, “the healthy population will have decreased tolerance for exercise” and are at greater risk of falling sick.

The U.S. embassy’s sensor measures air pollutants and assembles a 500-point air quality index. At 11 a.m, it reached 419, down from with 492 at 11 p.m. yesterday. The number passed 500, or “beyond index,” on Oct. 9 last year.

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