Factories closed in north and central China due to pollution levels


Hundreds of factories were shut down in Beijing and 21 other locations in northern and central China due to a peak pollution alert issued last Friday. Air traffic was also limited.

The Chinese capital, as well as the provinces of Hebei, Shandong and Henan, have been covered since Friday by a dense blanket of pollution, which according to the China Meteorological Center is expected to remain until next Wednesday, 21rst, leading many cities to dictate the maximum level due to atmospheric pollution.

It is the first red alert of this winter, having been decreed due to the long duration of the phenomenon, being foreseen that the visibility can be reduced at times, until the 500 meters. In addition to Beijing, other cities, such as Tianjin and the provincial capitals of Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan and Zhengzhou, have activated red alerts for five days.

The red alert, the tallest of a four-color system, provides for traffic restrictions (only half of the vehicles can travel on the capital’s roads, alternating between even and odd numbers on a daily basis). It was also decreed the temporary closure of the most polluting factories and works in shipyards to avoid further dust.

Fires and barbecues are still forbidden abroad, a decision that affects the number of ambulances selling fast food. Local authorities have also authorized nursery schools and schools to suspend classes if they deem it necessary. All these initiatives are accompanied by recommendations to citizens, so that they remain as far as possible, in enclosed spaces.

In Beijing, the concentration of fine particles, called PM2.5, oscillated around 11:00 AM, between 56 micrograms per cubic meter in some areas of the periphery and around 439 in industrial suburbs, according to the local Environmental Protection Office.

The United States embassy in China, located in the center of the city and that disseminates its results through the social network Twitter, reported a concentration of 101 micrograms per cubic meter at the same time.

The World Health Organization considers it harmful to health exposure for 24 hours at a concentration of these particles in excess of 25 micrograms per cubic meter. On Friday, PM2.5 levels hit 300 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing, prompting authorities to anticipate red alert in four hours.

These particles, which settle in the bottom of the lungs and can pass into the bloodstream, are responsible for rates higher than the average of bronchitis, lung cancers and heart disease. The alert is therefore serious, and to be fulfilled.