Beijing Sandstorm Prompts Pollution Warning for Some 22 Million

A sandstorm with strong winds from Inner Mongolia is causing hazardous pollution levels in Beijing, contributing to flight delays and prompting warnings to the capital’s nearly 22 million residents to avoid outdoor activities.

The entire city is under serious PM10 particulate pollution, according to Beijing’s Environmental Monitoring Center. The concentration of PM2.5 -- particles that pose the greatest health risks --was 684 micrograms per cubic meter as of midday, according to a U.S. Embassy monitor, more than 27 times the World Health Organization’s recommended exposure level over 24 hours.

Beijing Capital International Airport reported on its website that 51 arriving flights had been or would be delayed Thursday.

Beijing has taken steps over some 16 years to reduce pollution borne by sandstorms and inclement weather, factors that exacerbate pollutants from industry and auto exhaust. The city has planted trees on empty mountains and land, improved grasslands and tried to prevent soil and water loss as part of its strategy to improve air quality in the capital and neighboring Tianjin city.

The dusty pollution also enveloped vast regions of northern China including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Ningxia, Shaanxi, Hebei, Jilin and Heilongjiang, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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