PHOTOS: Smog in Parts of China Is so Bad Now That People Can Hardly Take It

'I thought someone's house was on fire'
November 9, 2015 5:52 pm Last Updated: November 9, 2015 6:44 pm

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.

Photos shared on social media websites showed the smog totally obscuring buildings in Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province.

This picture taken on November 8, 2015 shows a residential block covered in smog in Changchun, northeast China's Jilin province. A swathe of China was blanketed with dangerous acrid smog on November 9 after levels of the most dangerous particulates reached around 50 times World Health Organization maximums, with energy use for heating blamed as winter sets in.                CHINA OUT    AFP PHOTO        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on November 8, 2015 shows a residential block covered in smog in Changchun, northeast China’s Jilin province. A swathe of China was blanketed with dangerous acrid smog on November 9 after levels of the most dangerous particulates reached around 50 times World Health Organization maximums, with energy use for heating blamed as winter sets in. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

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(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

“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.

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.

“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.