For the past few days the air pollution here in Beijing has been at record levels.
Yesterday it was absolutely frightful – at midday we could not see from one side of the street to the other, everything was shrouded in a murky, grey haze. You could smell it and taste it.
Air pollution levels are obtained by measuring the number of micrograms of airborne PM2.5 particulates (which are the particles hazardous to health) per cubic meter of air. These are measured daily by both the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center and by the US Embassy here which sends out a daily tweet – much to the annoyance of the Beijing authorities.
Yesterday according to the US embassy air quality ratings for the city, which had ranged between “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” since Thursday, reached the “beyond index” mark during the afternoon. Monitors there recorded off-the-chart air-quality readings as high as 845 at 8pm on Saturday.
Everyone with any sense is staying indoors unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside – which we unfortunately had to do yesterday. Today we were due to go and have Sunday lunch in a friend’s apartment. She phoned to cancel as she had not been out shopping to buy food, and none of her guests were keen to venture out and search for taxis in the poisonous gloom.
Many Chinese have great confidence that face masks will protect them from the particles, but frankly the pollution is so bad that you would have to have the kind of industrial facemasks you might find in a chemical plant for them to be of any use.
My eyes feel irritated, and I hate to think what the inside of my lungs look like.Would you do me a favour? go outside and take a deep breath of fresh air and appreciate it, I used to take it for granted.