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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

1/31/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Air pollution at its worst levels since 1954

Being the industrial leader of Asia carries a steep price. In China, the air is so polluted that wealthy Chinese entrepreneur Chen Guangbiao, is selling fresh air in soft drinks cans. The concept is similar to bottled water. Each can is sold for about 80 cents. Chen says he wants to raise awareness of environmental protection among government officials.

Masks have become practical fashion on Beijing's busy streets.

Masks have become practical fashion on Beijing's busy streets.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/31/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: China, air pollution, oxygen, oxygen masks, air quality


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Masks have become practical fashion on Beijing's busy streets. The number of online searches for the word "mask" has jumped by 5,304.3 percent compared to last month. There are more than 100,000 masks being sold every day this month in Beijing alone.

It must be noted that ordinary medical masks do not provide enough protection. Some Beijing citizens have taken more serious measures by wearing gas masks. In one Beijing city office, as many as 20 workers wore the protective headgear at their desks.

A noxious haze has blanketed northern China. Beijing residents are choking on toxic smog. According to the People's Daily newspaper, the air hasn't been this bad since 1954.

Twenty-four out of January's first 29 days this year has had air classified as hazardous. The Air Quality Index from the U.S. embassy, designed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, shows that the concentration of fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5, has been hovering at the top of the scale since late last week. The condition calls for protective measures to be taken.

Visibility has been reduced to 100 yards in downtown Beijing. More than 100 passenger flights have been cancelled during a time when millions start the journey home for Chinese New Year.

"If we don't pay attention to environmental protection, in 10 years every one of us will be wearing gas masks and carrying oxygen tanks on the streets," Cheng told ABC News. "By that time, my canned fresh air will be a necessity for household," he predicts.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of respiratory illnesses, particularly among children and the elderly. A pediatric hospital in downtown Beijing has treated a record 9,000 children this month. They are mostly flu, pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma patients.

Adding to the crisis was a text from the government, sent to millions of cell phones warning residents to stay indoors. Beijing environmental authorities temporarily shut down 103 high-emission factories on Tuesday and ordered 30 percent of government cars off the roads.

Premier Wen Jiabao has called for reduced emissions and increased environmental awareness. The measures will continue until Thursday, when weather forecasts predict strong wind will sweep into Beijing and blow away the smog.

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