Shanghai Orders Cars Off Roads as Pollution Exceeds Scale

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Shanghai’s air pollution dropped today as some flights were still disrupted after an air quality gauge reached “beyond index” level yesterday, causing a heavy fog.

The PM2.5 index monitored by the U.S. consulate in the city fell by two categories to a “very unhealthy” level. The local meteorological station maintained an orange-level haze alert and said visibility in some regions was less than 200 meters, the Shanghai government information office’s microblog said today.

Heavy pollution may undermine plans for the financial hub to attract foreign talent and investment and push up health-care costs. Outdoor air pollution can cause lung cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization agency said in October, ranking it as a carcinogen for the first time.

In Beijing, the PM2.5 index monitored by the U.S. Embassy was “hazardous,” the highest level. Concentrations of PM2.5 were 279 micrograms per cubic meter at 3 p.m. near Tiananmen Square, compared with an average of 174 over the past 24 hours, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center.

World Health Organization

That reading was more than 10 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of no higher than 25 for day-long exposure. PM2.5 refers to particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, which pose the biggest health risk.

A cold front and high winds will sweep China tomorrow, clearing smog in the central and eastern regions by Dec. 9, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the China Meteorological Center.

Shanghai ordered vehicles off the road and factories to cut production and warned children and elderly people to stay indoors yesterday after pollution reached hazardous levels.

The PM2.5 index was at 234 at 9 a.m. today, according to the U.S. consulate in Shanghai. People with respiratory diseases should avoid outdoor exertion and healthy ones should limit outdoor exposure when the air quality level is at the very unhealthy level.

The Shanghai government’s air quality level was at 402 at 9 a.m., or “severe,” the highest in a six-tier rating system, according to its own monitoring system. It was at 473 yesterday, a record level according to the local media.

Clean-Up Pledge

Premier Li Keqiang pledged in March to clean up pollution including cutting coal consumption, shutting steel plants and controlling the number of cars. Pollution has become the top cause of social unrest in China, Chen Jiping, a former leading member of the Communist Party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs, said that same month.

At least 53 outbound flights and 69 inbound flights were delayed at Shanghai’s two airports in Pudong and Hongqiao today, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from the Shanghai Airport Authority’s website. That compared with at least 102 and 122 ones yesterday.

Local orders for masks increased 30 percent in November from the previous month after jumping 300 percent in October at online retailer under Tencent Holdings Ltd., according to the website of the Shanghai government. Sales of air purifiers jumped more than 70 percent in Shanghai’s outlets of major electric-appliance retailers including Suning Appliance Co., it said.

Shanghai, which implemented a free-trade zone as part of a broader goal to become a global financial and logistics center by 2020, announced a plan in October to cut 2012 PM2.5 readings by 20 percent by 2017 by pushing the use of new-energy buses and phasing out excessively polluting cars and taxis.

The Hong Kong government yesterday announced plans to introduce an air quality index that assesses health risks from smog after the pollution index reached “very high” levels.

Readings on Hong Kong’s new index will be calculated based on health risks from inhaling concentrations of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, the government said in a statement yesterday.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Zhang Shidong in Shanghai at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew Brooker at

— With assistance by Shidong Zhang

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