Hazardous smog hits Beijing

| Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 7:38 p.m.

BEIJING — Air pollution readings in China's notoriously polluted capital were at dangerously high levels for the second straight day on Saturday, with hazy skies blocking visibility and authorities urging people to stay indoors.

Local officials warned that the severe pollution in Beijing — reportedly the worst since the local government began collecting data a year ago — was likely to continue until Tuesday.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website that the density of PM2.5 particulates had reached 700 micrograms per cubic meter in many parts of the city, a level considered extremely hazardous.

By 5 p.m., the center's real-time reporting showed the air quality indexes at or approaching the maximum 500 from some monitoring stations. The index runs from zero to 500 and accounts for the level of airborne PM 2.5 particulates — tiny particles considered the most harmful to health.

Generally, the air quality is considered good when the index is at 50 or below, and hazardous with an index between 301 and 500, when people are warned to avoid outdoor physical activities. Those with respiratory problems, the elderly and children are asked to stay indoors.

Several other cities, including Tianjin on the coast east of Beijing and southern China's Wuhan city, also reported severe pollution over the past several days.

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