Smog continues to cloak the city of Beijing with pollution levels that are off the charts. Officials warned residents not to leave their homes this week unless absolutely necessary as the toxic air reached levels that were beyond the range of the US embassy’s air quality index. Experts say that the pollution could linger until Thursday, raising concerns about the long-term consequences to the health residents living in the city.

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Visibility in the area has been reduced to about 600 feet, with some areas experiencing visibility as low as 300 feet, which has caused airports to cancel flights. The US embassy’s air quality index rated Tuesday’s air as being off the charts. The index rates air quality above 150 to be unhealthy with the chart ending at 500. Beijing’s air came in with a reading of 517 around 6 am in the city.

The pollution is the result of rapid development and urbanization, bringing with it an increase in coal and vehicle use. Doctors have noted a dramatic increase in visits from individuals with respiratory complaints. Citizens have expressed anger about the increasingly toxic situation and have voiced a desire to see improvements made, but doing so will require a serious commitment to reducing fossil fuel use and investment in greener energy.


images © Kevin Dooley and David Barrie