Beijing's pollution 'hikes to critical levels'

Five years ago, the BBC reported on Beijing’s efforts to reduce its well-documented high levels of pollution ahead of the Olympic Games in the city. This global event comes with enough pressures, from the financial to the sheer maddening logistics of it all, let alone being under the scrutiny of everyone around the world.
Add to that the fact that such a spectacle is defined by some of the fittest and healthiest people in the world competing against each other and pushing their bodies to the absolute limit, it does pay for the environment in which this is happening to be suitable.
It was a challenge back then to get levels down to acceptable numbers, as extensive air pollution has almost been the norm in the city, but they managed, arguably, to achieve a reasonable level. It was no easy task.
This is because the figures for particulate matter (PM10), which are described as being tiny airborne particles that come from the burning of fossil fuels, are regularly above the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines.
In recent days however, the level of pollution in Beijing has reached dangerous levels, which has been described as being hazardous to human health. So severe is it that even China’s state media has been candid in reporting the entrenched pollution problem in what is one of the most populous cities in the world.
On Saturday 12th January, for example, the air pollution monitor on the roof of the US embassy recorded a figure that was simply dumbfounding: 775 on an index of 500, the worst reading in the five years since the monitor was installed.
Another example of the severity of the problem can be derived from what the WHO considers acceptable. For the smallest pollution particles known as PM2.5, the air should not exceed 25 micrograms. When levels reach 100 micrograms, the air is considered to be unhealthy.
The Beijing Municipal Environment Monitoring Centre reported that at one point this figure reached 900 micrograms in certain parts of the city.
“The increased disease burden [due to poor air quality] has caused a serious financial burden on government and individuals, John Cai, the director of the centre for healthcare management and policy at Beijing’s China Europe International Business School, told the Guardian.
“The recent serious pollution will send a serious warning to the government and will have an important impact in making the government speed up its regulation and enforcement.”
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