Red alert: China’s toxic air pollution is out of control

Chinese officials have issued the second red alert this month in Beijing due to toxic air pollution, which puts millions of lives at risk.

Toxic smog has once again descended on Beijing, China, and government officials are sounding the alarm. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the government has issued a red alert for air quality in the capital city for the second time already this month.

The red alert has resulted in the restriction of factory production and cars on the road in an effort to cut down on the amount of new smog being poured into the atmosphere. A lack of heavy winds in the region has left the city of 22.5 million struggling to get a breath of fresh air, with most people staying inside for the entire day.

A red alert is the highest level in the four-tier warning system for air pollution. The red alert is issued when the forecast calls for more than 72 hours of air pollution. In Beijing on Saturday, levels of PM2.5, some of the finest and most dangerous smog particles in the air, were almost as high as 331 ppm. Officials fear that without a strong wind to blow the smog offshore, levels could reach 500 ppm in the next few days. The World Health Organization warns that this would be more than 20 times the level currently considered to be safe.

Schools shut their doors and half of the city’s registered cars were forced to remain parked each day since the red alert came into effect. Factories have slowed down production to reduce the input of smog, and grills and outdoor fires have been banned.

Research indicates that the biggest sources of smog in Beijing are coal-fired power plants and an ever-growing fleet of cars on the road. Mountains on three sides of the city trap smog in a dense cloud, and the cold winter air keeps it from blowing away. As the Chinese government tries to reduce its carbon emissions from industrial sources, it will need to invest heavily in renewable energy technologies to meet their rapidly growing demand for energy throughout the country.

A press release from the World Health Organization describing the risks posed by air pollution can be found here.

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