Air is thick with smog complaints

Updated: 2012-01-20 07:40

By Zheng Xin (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The air quality has worsened in the Chinese capital since Wednesday, triggering renewed discontent among residents.

Without rainfall and wind to dispel pollutants, particulate matter has been accumulating in the air. Most monitoring stations measured PM 10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 micrograms) at higher than 300 micrograms a cubic meter.

In southwestern Beijing's Fangshan district, the Liangxiang station recorded 516 micrograms of PM 10 a cubic meter, the highest reading of the day, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center.

More than 150 micrograms a cubic meter is considered hazardous to health.

Beijing has been shrouded by heavy smog off and on this winter, and the ongoing air concerns are wearing on residents particularly as they prepare to celebrate the Spring Festival holiday next week.

"I almost got choked by the smog when I stepped out of the office building on Wednesday," said Yang Yanli, 24, an accountant. "The smell is so terrible, as though I'm inhaling chunks of coal, that it has spoiled my holiday mood."

"PM 10 intensity has been particularly high these days," said Wang Qiuxia, a researcher at the Green Beagle, a non-governmental organization based in Beijing.

Unlike the smog that hit mostly the southern part of the capital on Jan 1, the smog in recent days has shrouded the entire city, according to the Beijing environmental protection bureau.

Worse yet, it will linger until Saturday, when the wind will pick up and disperse it, the bureau predicted.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests people stay at home to protect themselves from respiratory and heart problems triggered by heavy smog.

"The intensity of indoor pollutants is 30 to 60 percent lower than those outdoors during a hazy day," said Xu Dongqun, an officer with the environmental bureau. "I suggest people with respiratory problems put off traveling if the smog lingers."

But many people said they had to brave the foul air to travel, especially migrants who are eager to reunite with their families during Spring Festival.

"No one likes to travel when the air is this bad, but do you have any choice when Spring Festival is coming?" asked Feng Xiao, a public servant at China's General Administration of Sport. The 24-year-old plans to travel by train from Beijing to her hometown in East China's Shandong province on Friday.

China Daily