Photograph by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Choking in China: Beijing Suffers Amid Deadly Smog

  1. A Blanket of Polluted Air
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    A Blanket of Polluted Air

    Even in a city known as one of the world’s most polluted, the last few days in Beijing have been unusually disgusting. A choking smog has blanketed the city of 20 million people, blocking out the sun and flooding hospitals with patients seeking help for heart and respiratory ailments. Contributing factors include unusually cold temperatures (which boosted the burning of coal), growth of steel, smelting, and petrochemical factories outside the city, and emissions by Beijing’s 5 million vehicles. Officials announced emergency measures that include shutting some factories and limiting car use. Meteorologists say the noxious air will linger until a cold front blows in on Jan. 15 and 16.

    Pollution is more than an annoyance for China's city residents. A study released by Greenpeace and Peking University’s School of Public Health found that exposure to ultrafine particulates helped cause 8,572 early deaths in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xian in 2012. The official reading for the most dangerous particulates—known as PM2.5—has recently soared as high as 993 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing, the highest level since Chinese environmental officials started releasing measurements a year ago. The World Health Organization says anything over 25 is unhealthy.

    Photograph by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
  2. Donning Masks
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    Donning Masks

    Pedestrians wearing masks walk at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. China's meteorological authority issued a yellow alert for fog on Sunday.

    Photograph by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
  3. Historic Haze
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    Historic Haze

    Palaces in the Forbidden City are seen through the heavy Beijing haze.

    Photograph by Imaginechina via AP Images
  4.  Exercises in Smog
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    Exercises in Smog

    People wearing masks do morning exercises as heavy fog engulfs Fuyang.

    Photograph by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
  5. Downtown Beijing
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    Downtown Beijing

    Central and eastern parts of China were shrouded in thick fog, including the heart of the capital.

    Photograph by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
  6. Respiratory Distress
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    Respiratory Distress

    Parents use a row of intravenous drips set up to treat kids for flu in Beijing. Public anger at dangerous levels of air pollution spread on Jan. 14 as state media editorials queried official transparency and the nation's breakneck development.

    Photograph by STR/AFP via Getty Images
  7.  'Beyond Index'
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    'Beyond Index'

    A woman wearing a mask walks on a Beijing street. Air quality data released via the U.S. embassy Twitter feed recorded air quality index levels so hazardous that they were classed as "Beyond Index."

    Photograph by Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images
  8. Bicycling
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    Bicycling

    A child on a bicycle is pushed by a woman on a stone arch bridge in Beijing. Although the capital is often hit by smog in winter, the past two weeks have seen one of the longest stretches of smoggy days in years.

    Photograph by Imaginechina via AP Images
  9. Stay Indoors
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    Stay Indoors

    Air pollution hangs over the skyline as the sun rises over the central business district in Beijing.

    Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)
  10. Development's Downside
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    Development's Downside

    Murky air darkens the skies over Capital Airport in Beijing. China's capital endured its worst air pollution in recent memory over the weekend, illustrating the persistent challenge China's new leaders face in addressing rising environmental awareness.

    Photograph by Imaginechina via AP Images
  11. Nowhere to Go
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    Nowhere to Go

    Two men walk along the railway line, shrouded in smog in Beijing.

    Photograph by Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images