Large clouds of smog are not uncommon in northern China and the situation typically grows worse during the winter when energy use increases.
At least 23 cities are currently under red alert, and 700 companies in Beijing have stopped production. The smog is so bad in some areas that planes can’t even land.
Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients complaining of asthma and other respiratory conditions.
“The smog has serious repercussions on the lungs and respiratory system,” explains Beijing high school student Li Jingren. “It also influences the health of future generations, so under a red alert, it is safer to stay at home rather than go to school.”
Beijing is one of the most polluted cities in the world – a problem that has been blamed on China’s reliance on coal as well as emissions from old cars. Greenpeace climate campaigner Dong Liansai says emissions from nearby factories caused the current smog episode.
Experts are tracking the miasma’s movement as well as the levels of potentially hazardous particles – called PM2.5 – in the air.
“Off-the-charts air pollution chokes many places in the #Hebei province, w/ PM2.5 levels exceeding 1,000 in its capital city of #Shijiazhuang,” tweeted the People’s Daily.
The alert was announced last Friday and is expected to end Wednesday night.