Shanghai's Smog Problem

Air-quality index is "severe"

Shanghai Smog

Shanghai's skyline on a day much better than yesterday.     Photo: Jason Lyon/Getty Images

If you're outside in Shanghai right now, reading this article would probably be near impossible. And looking at anything more than 50 yards away? Forget it.

Shanghai is experiencing one of its worst episodes of air pollution. The air quality index reached the "severe" level yesterday, the most dangerous in the six-tier national rating system.

South China Morning Post reports that the amount of fine particles peaked at 700 micrograms per cubic meter. Compared to London, a city famous for it's befouled air, Shanghai's air was nearly three times as thick. 

The pollution in Shanghai is more than 20 times the World Health Organization's safe limit (25 mcg per cubic meter), and even low levels of smog have been linked to health risks. Smog has been linked to increases in heart and lung disease since the 1970s, and recent research points to decline in academic performance in children and cognitive decline in women, according to the American Psychological Association. With air quality so low, even healthy Shanghai citizens would be more vulnerable to disease.

To bring levels down, the worst polluting factories have limited or stopped production today. Construction around the city has also halted and a third of government vehicles were taken off the roads.

The pollution is expected to linger until a cold front forecasted for early next week drives away air pollutants to the East China Sea.

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