SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Smog in Chinese metropolis Shanghai hit its highest level since January on Tuesday, prompting schools to ban outdoor activities & authorities to limit work at construction sites & factories as polluted air spreads around the country.
Last week, hazardous pollution levels in Beijing triggered the capital's first "red alert," meaning vehicles were ordered off the roads, classes were cancelled & heavy vehicles banned.
Shanghai's heavy smog arrived just a day before the city hosts the closely-watched World Internet Conference, which will include a speech by President Xi Jinping. Attendees are expected to include global tech industry titans & the leaders of countries such as Russia & Pakistan.
On Tuesday, a curtain of grey smog fell over Shanghai, China's business capital with a population of over 20 million. It limited visibility & drove the city's air quality index (AQI) above 300, a level deemed "hazardous" on most scales & which can have a long-term impact on health.
The levels of PM 2.5, dangerous tiny pollutants, hit 281, the highest since mid-January, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of State. PM 2.5 particles are a major cause of asthma & respiratory diseases, experts say.
"Because of (the smog) my kid often gets sick, often has a stuffy nose & a cough," said Valen Wang, 40, a full-time mother in Shanghai.
"At the moment, the pollution feels like it just keeps on getting worse, & all we can do is slow it down a little."
The smog prompted Shanghai authorities to issue a "yellow alert," the third-highest level warning, & to advise elderly, young & sick residents to remain at home, avoid outdoor activity & keep the windows closed.
China's pollution is causing a headache nationwide, with many rivers & lakes clogged with garbage, & heavy metals in the soil. Bad air sometimes causes flight delays.
The heavy smog in Shanghai moreover comes as provinces to the north tighten pollution regulations for steel mills & cement plants, pushing production south.
Some Shanghai residents donned masks to filter the air, while others shunned protection.
"My throat is rather dry & it hurts," Cao Yonglong, a 30-year-old delivery man said. "I keep wanting to have a drink of water."
(Reporting by Engen Tham, Adam Jourdan & the SHANGHAI newsroom; Editing by Kazunori Takada & Richard Borsuk)