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Factories Shuttered Due to Smog in Beijing

Heavy smog enshrouded eastern China for the second time this month, pushing the air quality index to severe levels and prompting Beijing officials to temporarily shut down factories.

Beijing’s city government ordered 103 heavily polluting factories to suspend production through Thursday, reported the Associated Press. Officials also told government departments and state-owned businesses to curb their use of cars by one-third.

The air pollution, which settled into Beijing Monday and worsened Tuesday, created a heavy smog that reduced visibility and forced the closure of an airport in east China’s Shandong Province, reported the official Xinhau News Agency. Visibility was reduced to less than 100 meters in some areas and some highways were also forced to close.

Beijing’s official reading for PM2.5, fine particulate matter that can cause serious health problems, was 433 micrograms per cubic meter at one point Tuesday. The US Embassy reported a PM2.5 of 526 micrograms per cubic meter, a “beyond index reading” more than 20 times higher than World Health Organization safety levels over a 24-hour period, reported the AP.

The haze spurred real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi to post an online poll, which found overwhelming support among Chinese for a national clean air law, reported Xinhau. Within a day of posting the poll, more than 29,000 people had voted, with 99 percent in favor of clean air legislation.

Earlier this week, China’s environment minster Zhou Shengxian said emissions of several major types of pollutants dropped last year and should fall by a similar level in 2013. Emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia nitrogen and the pollutants measured by chemical oxygen demand recorded year-on-year falls of two percent in 2012. However, Zhou admitted the country faced a challenge in trying to end chronic air pollution.

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has pledged in recent weeks to reduce vehicle emissions, estimated to contribute to about a quarter of the country’s air pollution. The regulating agency did not provide details on how it will lower emissions.

Photo: Greenpeace

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