Severe Beijing smog prompts unusual transparency

January 14, 2013 6:25:01 AM PST
Beijing schools kept children indoors and hospitals saw a spike in respiratory cases Monday following a weekend of off-the charts pollution in China's smoggy capital, the worst since the government began being more open about air-quality data.

City authorities, who began releasing figures about some of the worst kinds of pollutants early last year, ordered many factories to scale back emissions and were spraying water at building sites to try to tamp down dust and dirt worsening the noxious haze hanging over the city.

Demand spiked for face masks and air purifiers, and hospitals saw surges of up to 30 percent in residents seeking help for breathing problems, state-run media outlets reported. Schools in several districts were ordered to cancel outdoor activities such as flag-raisings and sports classes, and in an unusual public announcement, Beijing authorities advised all residents to "take measures to protect their health."

"It's really terrible. I'm extremely upset, but there's really nothing much I can do," said a Beijing resident out for a morning stroll. Like many Chinese, the man would give only his surname, Kang.

Another man, a 60-year-old retiree surnamed Chen, said his elderly relatives had moved to stay with family members outside the city to avoid the pollution.
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