Ten Chinese cities were on red alert for air pollution Thursday, as China continues to suffer through a wave of extremely poor air quality that prompted Beijing earlier this week to order factories to reduce production, close schools, and order drastic reductions in road traffic.
Beijing issued its first-ever red alert for pollution on December 7, and its second one on Monday. While the alert was scheduled to be lifted in some cities by Thursday, the pollution itself continued.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Shandong province in eastern China has issued alerts for four cities after warning them that the extreme pollution would exceed safe levels for more than 24 hours. The Shandong environmental protection bureau ordered closure of schools and a halt to road and building construction.
But the issue of red alerts does not mean Beijing's air is actually more polluted than it has been in the past.
Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told VOA earlier this week that China issued the red alert partly to justify more radical pollution-fighting measures, such as limiting road traffic.
Well-heeled Chinese are purchasing high-quality imported air purifiers for their homes and offices. But those units are too expensive for many Chinese who have resorted to rigging up makeshift units by attaching glass-fiber filters to household fans.
A Canadian company, Vitality Air, which began bottling Rocky Mountain air as a joke, now claims to have sold thousands of cans in China for up to $28 each.