More smog-hit Chinese cities issue red alert
POLLUTION red alerts spread to more Chinese cities, the state media reported yesterday as Beijing entered its third day of heavy smog, with officials warning that poor conditions could last until Saturday in some places.
Following Beijing's lead, Dingzhou and Xinji in Hebei province issued red alerts for the first time, China Daily reported yesterday.
Lower-level alerts were issued in Tianjin and in other parts of Hebei, as well as Henan, Shandong and Shanxi provinces. Tianjin is on orange alert, the second-highest level.
Another 27 cities across northern parts of the country also upgraded their public warning levels, as the toxic air affected more than 300 million people in the region, reported China Daily.
It cited experts and the national environmental watchdog, who said the soaring use of coal and industrial pollution are the main reasons behind the severe smog affecting China's northern areas.
Xie Shaodong, an environmental professor at Peking University, told China Daily: "The main cause is the widespread use of low-quality coal in rural regions and in areas with a lack of environmental supervision."
On its official website earlier this week, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said: "According to forecasts, from Dec 8 to 12, the overall conditions for the atmospheric diffusion (of smog) are unfavourable."
Yesterday, Beijing continued to choke under levels of PM2.5 - harmful microscopic particles that penetrate deep into the lungs - above 250 micrograms per cubic metre, according to the United States Embassy, which issues independent readings.
The World Health Organisation's recommended maximum exposure is 25.
The Chinese capital issued its first red alert for pollution on Monday - the highest in the four-tiered, colour-coded warning system adopted nationally, but lacking in standardisation, with regulations differing from city to city.
It has grounded half of the city's private cars, ordered construction sites and certain factories shut, and recommended school closures, causing parents to scramble for childcare options, reported Agence France-Presse.
Most of the country's greenhouse gas emissions come from the burning of coal for electricity and heating - particularly bad when demand peaks in winter - and is also the main cause of smog, which can include multiple pollutants.
The chronic haze blanketing northeastern China was so thick earlier this month that it could be seen from outer space, according to satellite photographs from Nasa.