U.S. space agency NASA has released startling new satellite images that highlight the extent of the smog over Beijing.
The Chinese capital city and, according to state-run media, 30 other cities have been plagued by extreme air pollution since earlier this month. Residents in Beijing have been advised to stay inside since mid-January, while it was reported that an “orange fog warning” was issued after recorded pollution levels reached their maximum.
Hospitals have also reportedly admitted 20 to 30 percent more patients, who complained of respiratory issues that were likely caused by breathing heavily polluted air.
According to NASA, who used its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer satellite, images show “extensive haze, low clouds, and fog over the region.”
“The brightest areas tend to be clouds or fog, which have a tinge of gray or yellow from the air pollution. Other cloud-free areas have a pall of gray and brown smog that mostly blots out the cities below. In areas where the ground is visible, some of the landscape is covered with lingering snow from storms in recent weeks,” the space agency said in an update on Monday.
On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing reported that the air’s PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter under 2.5 microns, reached 291 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The World Health Organization has said that it is safe when the PM 2.5 is below 25.
On Saturday night, it was reported that the PM 2.5 reached 993 micrograms per cubic meter.
These particles, which are around one thirtieth the width of a strand of human hair, can penetrate deep into the lungs and are capable of causing respiratory problems.
The regime has said that it would place regulations on auto emissions, according to state media. However, it is believed that most air pollution in China caused by the burning of coal for electricity; the country is the world’s largest consumer of coal.
“Pollution levels this high are extreme even for Beijing,” Li Yan, the Beijing-based chief of Greenpeace East Asia climate campaign, told Bloomberg News. “Although the government has announced efforts to cut pollution, the problem is regional and to fix Beijing’s problem, we also have to fix industrial pollution in neighboring regions like Hebei and Tianjin and even as far as Inner Mongolia.”
The World Bank estimates that China has 16 of the 20 most polluted cities on earth, including Linfen, which has been described as the “world’s most polluted city.”
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