China has started the new year with off-the-charts levels of air pollution. NASA's Earth Observatory satellite Terra shows the choking layer of haze in Beijing.
Below image taken on 3 January of Beijing and surrounding areas, before the attack of the haze, shows a clear sky with sign of winter snowfall on the ground.
Looking at the image taken on January 14 below, China was covered by a layer of haze. During taken of this image, the sensors at U.S. Embassy in Beijing recorded a PM2.5 measurement of 291, which was 11.6 times higher than the World Health Organization PM2.5 safety limit of 25.
PM2.5 is a tiny particle in the air with size less than 2.5 micrometers. It can easily penetrate deep into the our lung. The airway's ability to block this fine particle is relatively weak and so bacteria and viruses carried by it can directly enter the airway and infect our body. Hospitals in China have reportedly admitted 20% to 30% more patients then usual with respiratory issues that were likely caused by breathing heavily polluted air.
Air pollution is a major problem in China due to the country's rapid pace of industrialization, reliance on coal power, explosive growth in car ownership and disregard for environmental laws. It typically gets worse in the winter because of weather conditions and an increase in coal burning for heating needs. The government has said that it would place regulations on auto emissions in Beijing areas to ease the hazy conditions.