A large chunk of China was covered with putrid smog on Monday as a report from the World Health Organization said the levels of dangerous particulates reached about 50 times the organization’s maximums–the highest figures ever recorded in the country.
China air pollution is visible from space, The Great Wall is not. pic.twitter.com/tmywhLq6NY
— Mind Blowing Facts (@blowingfact) October 31, 2015
Photos shared on social media websites showed the smog totally obscuring buildings in Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province.
The levels of PM2.5, the tiny airborne particles considered harmful to health, reached an astronomical 860 micrograms per cubic meter, according to WHO, as reported by AFP. WHO’s recommended maximum is 24 micrograms over a 24-hour period.
Many residents went on social media to complain. “Waiting for the wind to change is how the government deals with air pollution,” one person said on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like website.
“Today’s haze is pretty severe and choking. When I walked out the door, I thought someone’s house was on fire,” wrote another person in Changchun. “I have to get indoors. My eyes hurt,” said another on the microblogging website. “This is disgusting weather. My throat feels raw with pain,” said another.
In Shenyang, the levels of PM2.5 reached an even higher 1,157 micrograms per cubic meter on Sunday, reported The Telegraph newspaper. Some parts of the city reached levels exceeding 1,400.
— Matt O’Brien (@ObsoleteDogma) November 9, 2015
Greenpeace’s Climate and Energy spokesperson Dong Liansai told the Telegraph that the Shenyang figure was the worst-ever figure that was recorded since Chinese authorities started monitoring air quality in 2013.
China’s pollution problems tend to get worse in the winter as power consumption–largely fueled by the burning of coal–rises.
— Virgilio Pasotti (@pasotti_) November 9, 2015
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) November 5, 2015
Thick smog blankets NE. China’s Liaoning Province; visibility in Shenyang city within 100 meters pic.twitter.com/sv4qll9iNo
— CCTVNEWS (@cctvnews) November 8, 2015
In China last week, I took these pics a day apart in Anhui. The second after rain scrubbed the smog away. pic.twitter.com/vzxH7UPZS9
— Iain Marlow (@iainmarlow) November 4, 2015
“The main reason for the pollution is the burning of coal in China’s three-north eastern provinces which is needed for public heating which begins in the winter,” Dong said.
“China needs to control the amount of coal it consumes nationwide.”
Photos uploaded of smog in Shenyang painted a dire picture, with one person wearing a military gas mask while riding his bike. Other people were wearing the breathing masks commonly seen in East Asia.
One study, published by the PLOSOne journal, showed that heavy air pollution in China is linked to around one in six premature deaths, killing about 1.6 million Chinese people each year.