01/31/2013, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing pollution "more dangerous than SARS"

Zhong Nanshan, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and head of the Institute for respiratory diseases in Guangzhou, warns: "We could defend ourselves from the terrible infection but it is impossible to escape this smog." Peak in hospital admissions for the "Beijing cough", citizens vent anger on the internet: "This is the price to pay for economic growth."

Beijing (AsiaNews) - There were many ways to "get away from Sars... you could have avoided it by leaving [a room] or taking different methods of prevention, but air pollution, indoor pollution - you can't run away from it!" says Zhong Nanshan, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and head of the Institute for respiratory diseases in Guangzhou. The professor's complaint was broadcast on national television, a sign of the executive's concern for the emergency that has hit Beijing.

In the last three weeks the city is actually invisible. A blanket of smog makes it impossible for flights to and from the capital, and the levels of PM2.5 (particulate matter - dust - Airborne 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter) continue to oscillate between 340 and 360. A value of 100 is considered dangerous to the health of people with heart or lung diseases, children and the elderly. The World Health Organization has a limit of 20 for normal air. The local government has ordered the closure of some factories and limited traffic, but to no success.

Zhong is known in China for leading experimental research on SARS in 2003 and having created guidelines for the prevention and management of the infection in Guangdong province. His alarm related to pollution is real: the number of children hospitalized in the last four days for respiratory problems is at almost 3000, and doctors now speak of the "Beijing cough". According to the Beijing Morning Post, hospital admissions increased by 20% in the last week, mostly for respiratory problems.

The municipality has asked "everyone" to stay at home as much as possible without opening the windows. Internet users have vented their frustration on Sina Weibo. The site of the country's most popular microblog: " We open the windows and suffocate from haze and air pollution. We close the windows and then suffer formaldehyde poisoning. This is the high price of GDP growth?".

Pollution - along with corruption - remains the biggest problem of contemporary China. Obsessed by the need to produce all the time, the country is determined to use any form of fuel that allows companies to remain active: the national economy is still based, 70%, on coal. The capital, which is located in the north, is affected this time of year by the winds passing through it which come from all over the country, bringing with them emissions from all four corners of the nation.

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