Those scenes from Blade Runner of a foggy megalopolis, full of towering buildings and clogged streets teeming with a massive population of industrial workers may look good in a sci-fi film, but in real life it's not so healthy. This weekend, Beijing experienced levels of pollution so high that the government was forced to enact emergency measures.
The story made news around the world and has even prompted the Chinese government to be more transparent than usual in terms of releasing information to the public, as thousands of locals frantically posted photos and video of the smog-choked city on the Web. The city's air quality hit record levels of pollution over the weekend, passing the 300 mark, which is considered dangerous on an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scale measuring particulate matter in the air, and soared up to 755, a level considered hazardous to human health. For comparison, as of this writing, the air quality index for New York was 45, and for Los Angeles the number was 52, levels considered good to moderate.
Beijing government notices advised citizens to remain indoors as streets were jammed with traffic crawling under the haze and pedestrians who dared to brave the air were forced to wear facemasks in order to try to minimize the effects of the pollution. In fact, several flights were cancelled because the pollution had simply become too thick. Some, as seen in one of the videos below, even reported being able to "taste" the pollution in the air.
Emergency actions planned by the government include limiting construction activity, cutting down government vehicle usage, as well as advising schools to cease outdoor activities for children during heavy pollution days. The dense cloud of pollution isn't expected to let up until Wednesday. You can take a look at some of the intense pollution currently plaguing Beijing in the videos below.