Pollution in Beijing Triggers New Warnings to Avoid Outdoors

Pollution in Beijing rose to nearly 10 times levels considered safe by the World Health Organization, triggering warnings to avoid outdoor activity.

The concentration of PM2.5 -- the small particles that pose the greatest risk to human health -- hit 242 in the Chinese capital as of 3 p.m., a U.S. Embassy monitor said. The WHO recommends 24-hour exposure to PM2.5 levels of less than 25.

High pollution levels prompted Premier Li Keqiang to say earlier this month the government would “declare war” on smog by closing some coal-fired furnaces and removing high-emission vehicles from the road. In a speech today, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said bad air quality, water shortages and desertification pose a “serious risk to the next stage of China’s development.”

“As with many countries around the world, China’s economic success came at a price -- increasing inequality and increasing environmental damage,” Lagarde told the China Development Forum.

Last week, the city’s meteorological bureau said Beijing plans to allocate 20 million yuan ($3.2 million) on “weather modification efforts” -- chiefly creating rain -- to ease smog.

Earlier today, a preliminary measure showed China’s manufacturing industry weakened for a fifth straight month in March. Speaking at a briefing on March 8, Vice Environmental Protection Minister Wu Xiaoqing said China has paid a heavy environmental price for its growth in gross domestic product.

— With assistance by Nick Wadhams

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