Though it isn’t the largest city in China, the capital of the world’s most populous country is still a very crowded place. With a population of 19.5 million and growing, Beijing is famous for a number of things—among them, its persisting pollution problems. However, citing cold weather coal burning, increasing industrial production, and as you may have guessed—vehicle emissions—the capital city says it’s recently been suffering through some of the worst pollution it’s ever experienced. As a result, the Chinese government is forcing many factories to suspend or severely reduce production for the time being. As reported by AutoBlog, a Hyundai plant in Beijing is one of the factories that has recently been forced to delay production in the wake of the city’s pollution problems.
How is Pollution Measured?
According to the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air quality is usually measured by determining how much particulate matter (PM) is in the air. Particulates come in many forms (think smoke, soot, dirt and dust) and sizes, but only particulates under 10 micrometers in diameter are small enough to be inhaled by humans. Due to their extremely small size, particulates under 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) are the most harmful to our health. Therefore, in the United States, the EPA recommends that PM2.5 levels remain below 65 micrograms per cubic meter at all times.
The South China Morning Post reports that Beijing’s PM2.5 particle levels recently reached 886 micrograms per cubic meter—over 13 times the level the EPA recommends. Since then, they say it’s been fluctuating between 200 and 400 micrograms per cubic meter—still way over the recommended levels. Additionally, the Chinese publication reports that tens of thousands of children with respiratory issues are being admitted to hospitals every day, and that hardware stores are selling air purifiers in record numbers.
The latest pictures taken of Beijing show a layer of extremely dense smog permeating the city, which some are saying is the worst they’ve ever seen. City officials are optimistic, however, hoping that the smog will move out when a cold front moves in over the next several days. Until then, however, those who must be out and about are wearing doctors’ masks to protect themselves from the harmful PM2.5.