China is dealing with a blanket of dense smog causing authorities to order schools and highways closed. This happens a day after President Xi Jinping left for the Climate Change Summit in France.
For the past five consecutive days, China grappled with a 'smogpocalypse' that has blocked views across the capital, closed highways and schools, even reaching hazardous levels and could pose as a health risk.
The smog covered more than 200,000 square miles, spanning from Beijing, Tianjing and the surrounding province of Hebei.
Chinese officials raised an orange alert for air pollution levels, the second highest alert on Dec.1. They added that emissions in China soar over winter because heating systems are all at work. To add to this, low wind speed caused by the unfavorable weather does not help getting the smog dispersed.
Officials ordered more than 2,000 factories and industrial plants to suspend work and shut down operations. This will help reduce work and emissions to let the current smog to clear up.
The air pollution reached toxic levels as measurements of the tiny and poisonous particles, PM2.5 was recorded at almost 600 micrograms per cubic meter in the city. The safe level according to the World Health Organization is only at 25. In fact, some communities even recorded toxic levels as high as 900 micrograms per cubic meter.
According to the United States Embassy in China, an index of particulate matter more than 500 is extremely high and can be toxic or harmful to everyone. They released a guide to help people to protect themselves and minimize the hazardous effects of air pollution on them.
The particles called PM2.5 are air pollutants so tiny that people can't see them anymore. In fact, the tinier the particle is, the more dangerous it is. Mostly, PM2.5 particles are toxic compounds or heavy metals emitted by automobiles, burning plants and purifying metals.
Tiny particles are easier to enter the airways too. With their size, they can pass through the airways and go directly into the lungs. Hence, PM2.5 particles are mostly seen as culprits in aggravated asthma, cough, lung damage and premature death in people with underlying heart or lung diseases.
In a recent study, outdoor pollution contributes to an estimated 1.6 million people in China each year. That is equivalent to around 4,000 people per day.