Get your mask ready!Source: The Daily Mail
Air quality in several cities in north China worsened today as Beijing was smothered by the worst smog so far this year.
Pollution readings of PM 2.5 - smaller dust particulates that are especially damaging to human health - soared to 311 at noon in the capital city, according to data released by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. That's 12 times higher than the average level of healthy exposure in a 24-hour period, according to the World Health Organization.
Stunning pictures show Beijing's iconic skyline and central business district barely visible through the toxic haze as the sprawling city of 21 million battles the dreaded annual 'smog season'.
Authorities have issued a yellow pollution alert - the lowest and least severe warning in China's four-tier system - and reminded residents to take precautionary measures.
Residents of the capital city and other urban districts are seen braving the toxic smog on the streets with face masks and scarves.
Some areas of Hebei Province and Beijing experienced visibility of less than 50 meters (164 feet), according to a notice issued by the National Meteorological Center.
China has been fighting a tough war against smog for years and Beijing is known for its notoriously high levels of pollution.
During the worst episodes, flights are cancelled and highways and schools are closed.
Beijing authorities have been launching an ambitious plan to clean up its air in recent years, by shutting coal-fired power plant and eliminating outdated vehicles and curbing on home coal-fired heating to cut emissions.
After a four-year effort to reduce choking smog in some of its biggest cities and industrial areas, Beijing is under increasing pressure to tackle decades of rural pollution as arable land shrinks.
Authorities last Thursday announced a new plan to tackle heavy metal pollution, curb fertiliser use and improve water quality by 2020.
Released on the website of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the new strategy seeks to guarantee the safety of drinking water supplies, strengthen sewage and garbage treatment, enhance waste recycling and cut the use of pesticides and fertilisers.
China will also investigate and treat farmland that has been contaminated by the mining and smelting of heavy metals like lead, zinc and cadmium, while measures should be taken to prevent agricultural products contaminated by heavy metals from entering the food chain, it said.
In January, officials launched plans to invest more than 19 billion yuan (about £2 billion) in fighting air pollution this year.