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China wheezes amidst perpetual pollution

Despite cuts in production at nearly 150 of Beijing's industrial plants, the city has remained veiled by a cloud of pollution that has affected parts of China for days. Residents have been advised to avoid the outdoors.

On Tuesday, the PM2.5 indicator - which measures tiny airborne particles that are easily absorbed by the lungs - reached 444 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing. This is many times the 25 micrograms per cubic meter the World Health Organization considers safe. The PM2.5 reading hit 576 micrograms in nearby Tangshan.

Rain and winds were expected to clear up the pollution to some extent but not until late on Wednesday. Officials in Beijing have advised residents to reduce outdoor activity and to use face masks if they must venture outside.

According to the Reuters news agency, a Chinese state-run newspaper carried a story on Tuesday of the first man to sue the Chinese government for failing to address the pollution problem. The man, who lives in Shijayhuang in the northern province of Hebei, filed a complaint with the city's Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau about the health impacts and the economic cost of living with such high levels of pollution.

In addition to a large number of cars on the roads and a booming industrial sector, China relies on coal to meet most of its energy needs. The Chinese government has promised to

tackle the country's pollution problem

but periods of high pollution are

not uncommon

, particularly during the winter, when more coal is burned due to the need to heat homes and other premises.

mz/pfd (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)

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