Although the peking environmental authorities also spoke of "severe air pollution," only the third-highest yellow alert level was declared in the 20-million-metropolis on wednesday.
Once again, 30 percent of official service vehicles were not allowed to drive in the capital. The smog in beijing and other cities, which the authorities used to play down as "fog," played a prominent role in the national evening news broadcast by state television. The ministry of industry promised new measures in the fight against air pollution, such as the elimination of unstable production facilities.
Airborne levels of the particularly dangerous fine dust, which can pass directly into the blood via the lungs, were ten times the limit recommended by the world health organization (WHO) in beijing. Visibility dropped to less than 300 meters in hazy weather wednesday in some parts of town. Many people in peking have been wearing respirators for weeks anyway.
After the mega-smog almost two weeks ago, when unprecedented highs had been reached, the people of pekingen had actually only been able to breathe a little easier. Pollutant levels have since stabilized at a further high level. At the annual meeting of the peking people's congress, many delegates said that the complaints about the peking cough "describes the reality", as the official news agency xinhua wrote.
Smog is causing hospitals to see an increase in patients with respiratory diseases and cardiovascular problems. "My father-in-law still can"t breathe on his own," described a 44-year-old woman from peking. The 81-year-old, who until then had been rusty and healthy, had ignored warnings and gone for a daily walk in the mega-smog. Suddenly he started having breathing problems and was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. "The air is just too bad."
While the U.S. Embassy considers an air index of less than 50 to be good, the values since then have usually ranged from 200 to more than 400. The scale used to go only up to 500, but with the mega-smog in the middle of the month, peak loads of more than 800 were measured. On wednesday, the u.S. Index rose again to more than 400, while chinese readings indicated values of more than 300.