Beijing Air Turns Hazardous as Haze Forecast in Eastern China

Air quality in China’s capital Beijing turned “hazardous” while pollution in Shanghai was rated unhealthy as hazy weather was forecast across parts of the country’s eastern regions.

Concentrations of PM2.5, fine air particulates that pose the greatest health risk, rose to 297 micrograms per cubic meter at 12 p.m. near Tiananmen Square from an average of 195 in the past 24 hours, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center. The rating is the second-worst behind “severely polluted.”

The U.S. Embassy also graded the air quality in Beijing as “hazardous,” reporting its reading of PM2.5 at 344 micrograms per cubic meter at 12 p.m. The airborne pollutants, which are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, can penetrate deep into lungs and even enter the blood stream. The World Health Organization recommends average 24-hour exposures of no higher than 25.

Pollution in Beijing rose to a record on Jan. 12 with PM2.5 surging as high as 993, sparking criticism of the government’s management of the environment. The capital’s daily average last month, of 196, was similar to that in an airport smoking lounge. Li Keqiang, set to become China’s next premier, called for patience as authorities work to reduce emissions.

Sales of fireworks in Beijing have fallen significantly during the current Lunar New Year holiday as residents exercised restraint to help ward off smog, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Feb. 10, citing Zhou Zhengyu, deputy secretary-general of the municipal government.

The level of PM2.5 as measured by the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai was 79 at 12 p.m. and air quality was “unhealthy,” according to a post on the consulate’s Twitter feed. Haze has reappeared today in parts of China’s eastern regions, reducing visibly to less than one kilometer, the China Meteorological Administration said in an e-mailed report.