02/28/2013, 00.00
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Pollution again reaches dangerous levels in Beijing

As the National People's Congress prepares to meet, pollution hits highest level for a second time in a week. Meanwhile, ordinary Chinese continue to demand government action.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Pollution in the Chinese capital has hit record levels again. The US embassy, which has air quality monitoring equipment on its roof, warned that levels had touched the "beyond index". At 10 am, PM2.5 levels were at 510 micrograms per cubic metre, above the 500 level deemed very hazardous to human health. The PM2.5 refers to airborne particles that are small enough to enter the lungs and blood.

This is the second time in a week that levels go beyond 500. According to meteorologists, the situation is due to a dust storm in northern China, which has already affected parts of Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Shanxi and Hebei.

"A dust storm in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia is blowing west to east and will gradually affect our city, raising the concentration of fine particulates," said the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre. The public is "advised to stay indoors".

Pollution is a major issue in China where industrialisation and economic growth have been pursued without due consideration for environmental protection.  Increasingly ordinary Chinese are asking the government to do something,

So far, steps taken have been limited. But the authorities might change once the Communist Party's 'fifth generation' of leaders take over with Xi Jining.

The Health Ministry has recently recognised in its own publications the existence of so-called 'cancer villages', i.e. sites with abnormal levels of cancer near highly polluting factories.

At the same time, residents are increasingly clamouring for action.

China's parliament, the National People's Congress, will meet on 5 March. It is expected to confirm the names of the new leaders as well as provide a platform for announcements on the environment.

"As the public expresses its fervent hopes for a beautiful China, it wouldn't hurt for the Ministry of [the] Environment to openly face up to the pollution data and mobilize society's strength to together to work hard to prevent environmental pollution," the Guangzhou Daily said in a commentary on Tuesday.

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