News / Asia

    Smog Blankets Chinese Cities

    Buildings are seen in heavy haze in Beijing's central business district, January 14, 2013.
    Buildings are seen in heavy haze in Beijing's central business district, January 14, 2013.
    Large parts of China continue to be enveloped in a sea of smog and national weather forecasters are warning that the pollution could linger until mid-week. The bad air stretches from cities in the north to the far south and has contributed to flight delays, forced schools to move activities indoors and led to a rise in respiratory cases at local hospitals.

    Although pollution levels were slightly lower on Monday in China’s capital, Beijing, they were still lingering at levels environmentalists say are hazardous and protection, such as facemasks, is recommended.

    In some of the worst hit areas - such as Beijing, Hebei, Tianjin, Henan and Shandong - visibility was less than one kilometer and in some cases less than 200 meters.

    The lack of visibility has led to the closure of highways, cancellation of flights and postponement of wide range of sport activities.

    On Saturday, an air quality station at the U.S. Embassy recorded particulate matter or PM 2.5 levels - nearly 900 micrograms per cubic meter. The World Health Organization recommended maximum daily level of PM 2.5 is 20 micrograms per square meter.

    Fine particles in the air, which are about 1/30th the diameter of a human hair, come from many different sources, such as coal-burning power plants, construction and automobile exhaust.

    Many people spent the weekend inside and on Monday as the pollution eased some, but showed no sign of letting up, some Beijing residents were reporting that it was difficult to find facemasks to buy.

    Yoko, a 32-year-old public relations accountant, says that she went to buy a facemask this morning, but found that they were all sold out. However, she adds that even if you can find one, they are hard to wear outside because they feel so suffocating. 

    Yoko says her son is in the hospital and she believes that he has gotten a cough because of the bad air.

    She says she just came from a nearby children’s hospital which was overcrowded with parents seeking help for their children. She says there were hundreds of kids there and doctors were scrambling to just keep up.

    Fan, 27, who works for an international watch company says the pollution was having a big impact on his activities in the past few days that he has spent much more time than he’d like inside.

    Fan says that he has been living in Beijing for four years and that he has never seen the pollution as bad as it is now. He says you always notice the dust when you fly into Beijing, but this is the first time that the PM 2.5 levels have become so serious. Like many people, he feels that government should continue its efforts to address the problem.

    To try and rein in the pollution, officials have ordered dozens of construction sites to halt operations and businesses to reduce their emissions.

    Pan Xiaochuan, a professor of public health at Beijing University, says that although increasing emissions of pollutants from sources such as automobile exhaust and industrial soot is part of the reason for the smog - the weather has made the situation worse.

    Pan says that with relatively low air pressure, little wind and high humidity, it is difficult for pollutants to move on and they have become trapped in the lower atmosphere.

    • Women wearing face masks run to cross a street in Beijing, May 6, 2013. The United States Embassy monitor on air quality in China classified the quality of air in Beijing as "hazardous."
    • A man rows a boat on a river during a hazy morning in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, June 16, 2013. 
    • A man wearing a mask is seen on a street in Beijing, May 2, 2013. Street-level anger over air pollution that blanketed many northern cities this winter spilled over into online appeals for Beijing to clean water supplies.
    • A statue of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong is seen in front of buildings during a hazy day in Shenyang, Liaoning province, May 7, 2013. 
    • Beijing schools kept children indoors, January 14, 2013, and hospitals saw a spike in respiratory cases following a weekend of excessive pollution in China's smoggy capital.
    • A teacher leads her students doing body exercises during class break in a classroom on a foggy day in Jinan, Shandong province, January 14, 2013.
    • Cranes atop a residential building under construction in central Beijing, April 18, 2012.
    • Smoke billows from a chimney of a heating plant in Beijing, February 13, 2012.
    • Haze blankets the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, as seen from inside the Olympic Green area during the Olympics, August 7, 2008.
    • A coal-burning power station at night in Xiangfan, Hubei province, September 15, 2009.
    • Paramilitary policemen practice drills inside the Forbidden City amid haze in central Beijing, December 4, 2011.
    • Buildings in Beijing are pictured on an evening with heavy haze and smog, October 28, 2011.

    China’s capital has gone to great lengths to try to improve the quality of air in Beijing, relocating heavy industry and many factories outside of the city.

    China’s leaders see pollution as a major challenge. When outgoing president Hu Jintao spoke to Communist Party leaders, late last year, he said the country needs to reverse the trend of ecological deterioration and build a beautiful China.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: milton stoltz from: 60126 U.S.A
    January 18, 2013 1:19 PM
    Its wonderful our government allows products not made by our
    standards be sold to us just for wall st greed, so what if it kills
    and destroys people, the air and water supplies $$$$$

    by: Wangchuk from: NYC
    January 18, 2013 10:56 AM
    The majority of the worst-polluted cities are in China. Most of China's lakes & rivers are polluted. The Tibetan Plateau, once a pristine environment, is suffering from pollution and melting glaciers as a result of Chinese pollution. The problem is the Party's emphasis on GDP growth at all costs. Local officials get fired if they dont' meet minimum GDP rates but no one gets fired b/c their province/city/town is too polluted. Environmental laws are not enforced & China's environment ministry only has 300 people for a country of 1.4 billion.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora