Beijing warns kids, elderly to stay indoors as smog drapes city

Beijing warned children and the elderly to remain indoors amid readings showing air quality at “very unhealthy” levels in the Chinese capital.

The concentration of PM2.5 — the small particles that pose the greatest risk to human health — hit 161 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing as of 10 a.m. local time, according to a U.S. Embassy pollution monitor. That’s more than six times the World Health Organization’s recommended maximum day-long exposure limit of 25.

The warning comes after the city issued a yellow alert against heavy air pollution for Feb. 14 to 16, the local environmental bureau said on its official Weibo social media account. Air quality may gradually improve around noon on Feb. 16, the agency forecasts.

A yellow alert is the third-highest level on Beijing’s four-tier warning scale.

The return of smog to Beijing underscores the need for tougher measures to help clear the skies. Beijing’s annual average concentrations of PM2.5 dropped about 10 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year, though air quality fell short of government standards on 46 percent of days last year.

Beijing will ban some high-emission vehicles from its urban areas starting Wednesday, Xinhua News Agency reported on Feb. 13, citing authorities.

In other measures, the city plans to create an “environmental police” in the first quarter to help crack down on illegal polluters, Beijing News reported on Jan. 14, citing Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau head Fang Li. The city will also cut coal use by 30 percent to 7 million metric tons this year from a year earlier, Fang was cited as saying.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has ordered 20 cities surrounding Beijing whose smog is exacerbating chronic pollution in the Chinese capital to implement coordinated air-pollution controls.

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