01/30/2013, 00.00
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Beijing paralysed by three consecutive days of record smog

Particulate levels are three times higher than the highest tolerable level. Dozens of flights are cancelled as municipal authorities reduce the number of official cars on the road and urge residents to stay indoors. However, the impact is minimal with hospitals overrun by children suffering from the 'Beijing cough'.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - For the third consecutive day, Beijing authorities urged residents to stay indoors because of a heavy cloud of smog blanketing the chinese capital. So far, all steps taken to address the problem have failed.

The municipal government shut down 103 polluting factories and ordered 30 per cent of official cars off the road on Tuesday. However, PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers) readings continued to fluctuate between 340 and 360.

When the level of PM2.5 in the air surpasses 100, it is deemed unhealthy for people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children. For the World Health Organisation, the recommended daily level for PM2.5 is 20.

Across the capital, doctors continue to see people with 'Beijing cough', a term coined by the Chinese media to name the persistent cough that affects especially children. The condition includes chest pain, breathing difficulties and sore eye. Clinics and emergency wards have been flooded with people complaining of such symptoms.

The last three days have been the worse but January has reached record levels even for China.

Air pollution has not only caused health problems. The Beijing International Airport has had to cancel almost 30 flights to other parts of Asia because planes could not take off.

Pilots cannot take off when visibility is less than a metre. In central Beijing, visibility was less than 300 metres, a dangerous level compared to one kilometre average in other world capitals.

Along with corruption, pollution is China's main problem. Obsessed by industrial production, Chinese authorities used every imaginable fuel to run the country's plants. Coal however is still king, representing 70 per cent of energy use.

At this time of the year, pollution from other parts of China tends to flow towards Beijing, which is located in the northern part of the country.

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