China is known for having some of the world’s worst air pollution, but air quality in the country recently hit a new high at 20 times greater than the safety limit for human health. The Guardian reports heavy smog is enveloping parts of northern China and causing visibility levels to drop as measurements of small (PM 2.5) pollutant particles are rising. The particles are dangerous because they can embed themselves deep in the lungs, and they’ve reached more than 500 micrograms per cubic meter in parts of Hebei, near Bejing. The World Health Organization’s level for maximum health exposure to PM2.5 particles is 25 micrograms per cubic meter, and current levels are 20 times higher. The situation has led authorities to issue an “orange alert.”
China’s massive air pollution problem is caused by the nation’s use of coal to power its massive industrial sector and an increase in vehicles on its roads. Facing public protest about the pollution, China recently announced action in the form of a “war on pollution.” But pollution still remains a massive problem, as the recent air quality situation shows.
And it couldn’t come at a worse time, as China is hosting the world on many fronts in the coming weeks and months. Bejing is currently hosting a cycling tournament and a soccer match between Brazil and Argentina, while heads of state from the U.S., Russia and Asia will be meeting in the capital city for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November. City authorities say they’re going to place tighter restrictions on vehicles and require neighboring cities to shut down polluting facilities while the summit is happening.