A cloud of “hazardous” air pollution descended over Beijing on Sunday, shrouding the city’s famous cultural landmarks in a thick haze and leading to flight cancellations and road closures.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre on Sunday said on its website that pollution levels in the city’s six core districts were at 225-245, a reading corresponding to Level 5 on the official pollution scale. Anything above 300 is categorised as Level 6, China’s highest level.

Readings posted by the United States embassy, however, were much higher. In an email message to American citizens on Sunday morning, the embassy said that readings on its Air Quality Index (AQI) “have averaged over 300 in the 24-hour period beginning at 8pm on October 4, and were over 400 overnight”.

The embassy added that based on recommendations by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), AQI levels surpassing 301 “are considered hazardous” with the EPA recommending that amid such readings “everyone should avoid all physical activities outdoors”.

The haze hanging over a large area of northern China including the capital and neighbouring Hebei province has persisted since Saturday night and will continue until Monday afternoon, the final day of the annual Golden Week national holiday, according to China’s National Meteorological Centre.

Low visibility in Beijing caused by severe pollution, which officials said was less than 500 metres in some areas, has prompted the government to partially close six inter-provincial expressways, and restrict nearly 30 highways around the capital and its nearby port city Tianjin. see more

source: http://www.scmp.com