Beijing – The highest populated country in the world has alerted its citizens with a smog code red, a signal that indicates more than 72 hours of smog at poisonous levels.
China displayed its smog red alert on Monday for the first time in its history. The alert system, which shifted from orange to red, suggests that authorities forecast 72 consecutive hours of toxic smog in the country’s capital.
As a consequence, kindergartens, primary and high schools suspend their classes, and constructions sites, as well as some industrial plants, are required to stop. The alert will last from 7 am Tuesday until 12 pm on Thursday.
The alert also means that there will be a limited car usage; cars will be allowed on alternating days and 30 percent of government vehicles will be banned from the streets.
According to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center, the alert has been put on until Thursday as it is expected to disperse later that afternoon as a cold front arrives.
Beijing’s air contains more than 10 times the amount of pollution that the World Health Organization (WHO) deems safe. Air quality is measured by the WHO with a scale that begins at 0 and any number below 50 is considered healthy and safe. The air quality of Beijing currently ranks at 200.
When days in the Asian city have such high levels of unhealthiness, people with asthma or similar conditions suffer heart attacks, among other effects.
The children of China are at greater risk, since they spend plenty of time playing outdoors and have smaller lungs. With such poor climatic conditions, they can develop lung diseases as adults, the most disruptive being lung cancer.
According to the WHO, around 7 million people worldwide die every year due to air pollution — about 1 in 8 deaths.
Chinese residents have been used to air pollution, though not at this scale. It is common to see people using their protective masks. Although these masks block out large portions of filth, they don’t block the smallest particles of pollution.
However, this isn’t the first time a city has become dangerously dirty. In Europe, London suffered a killer fog in 1952 which combined soot and fog, and claimed thousands of Londoners lives in just four days. In North America in 1966 intense smog was blamed for the deaths of 166 people in New York.