Beijing adopts emergency measures for 'hazardous' pollution

Dangerous smog blankets Beijing
Dangerous smog blankets Beijing

    JUST WATCHED

    Dangerous smog blankets Beijing

MUST WATCH

Dangerous smog blankets Beijing 02:13

Story highlights

  • Beijing recording "hazardous" levels of air pollution Monday
  • Children in worst-hit areas ordered to stop outdoor sports activities
  • Reports of respiratory problems -- and sale of masks -- skyrocket
  • U.S. Embassy in Beijing records an index of more than 700 micrograms Sunday

Schoolchildren were ordered to halt outdoor sports activities until Tuesday this week, as a dirty cloud of smog continued to shroud China's capital.

This was among a series of emergency response measures adopted in Beijing Sunday when the city's Air Quality Index exceeded 500 micrograms, the highest level. Anything above this is regarded as "beyond index."

Reports of respiratory problems -- as well as the sale of masks -- have skyrocketed, according to state media, and over the weekend, streets appeared emptier, as a sun was barely visible amid a hazy blanket.

On Monday morning the U.S. Embassy in Beijing recorded "hazardous" levels of pollution, with a "Beyond Index" reading of 515 at 3:00 a.m. (2 p.m. Sunday) local time, last seen on Saturday when the air quality index, based on U.S. national air quality standards, hit as high as 755.

Read more: Which city has best quality of life?

Beijing Hyundai Motor Company suspended production on Sunday, and nearly 30 construction sites halted construction, the China Daily cited the city's environmental protection bureau as saying.

Beijing's bad air quality
Beijing's bad air quality

    JUST WATCHED

    Beijing's bad air quality

MUST WATCH

Beijing's bad air quality 05:06
PLAY VIDEO
Beijing's pollution merely 'hazardous'
Beijing's pollution merely 'hazardous'

    JUST WATCHED

    Beijing's pollution merely 'hazardous'

MUST WATCH

Beijing's pollution merely 'hazardous' 02:20
PLAY VIDEO
'I haven't seen the sun' in four days
'I haven't seen the sun' in four days

    JUST WATCHED

    'I haven't seen the sun' in four days

MUST WATCH

'I haven't seen the sun' in four days 03:00
PLAY VIDEO
Greenpeace on Beijing's hazardous smog
A couple wearing face masks walks in a busy shopping area during polluted weather in Beijing on January 13, 2013.

    JUST WATCHED

    Greenpeace on Beijing's hazardous smog

MUST WATCH

Greenpeace on Beijing's hazardous smog 03:25
PLAY VIDEO

The city's residents say pollution is worsening despite authorities' assertions that air quality has improved since the city hosted the 2008 Olympic Games.

Last year, heavy haze and smog forced the cancellation of almost 700 flights at Beijing airports.

The city is comparable to Los Angeles, another gray city, according to experts.

"With their difficult meteorological conditions and a large number of pollution sources, addressing pollution is a long-term and difficult task," Deborah Seligsohn, adviser of the World Resources Institute, said last year. The agency runs a climate energy and pollution program in China.

Los Angeles has battled air pollution since the 1950s, well before U.S. national regulation, according to Seligsohn.

"Stilll in the 1970s, 20 years later, it was famous for its smog," she said. "In the 40-plus years since the Clean Air Act was passed, L.A. has never been fully in compliance with EPA standards, even though it has continued to improve."

Read more: China must come clean on pollution

European Commission figures show that China produced 9.7 million kilotons of carbon dioxide while the United States had 5.42 million kilotons in 2011, the latest available numbers.

The weekend's pollution levels have prompted an "orange fog" warning in Beijing because of diminished visibility, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

"Pollutants have gradually accumulated over the course of recent windless days, making the air quality even worse," said Zhu Tong, an environmental sciences professor at Peking University told news agency.

Beijing will remain covered in gray until Wednesday, when the wind will sweep in to the rescue and blow the smog away, according to state media.