China's Filthy Air Prompts Mask Rush and Sale of Fresh Air in Cans
By KAIJING XIAO
BEIJING Jan. 30, 2013
For the fourth time this year, a murky haze has descended over north China, leaving residents of Beijing choking on toxic smog. China's air hasn't been this bad since 1954, according to the state-run People's Daily newspaper.
In a remarkable record of dirty air, 24 out of January's first 29 days this year had air classified as hazardous. And the skies have still not cleared.
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, known as PM 2.5, has been hovering at the top of the scale since last Friday. It's in a range described as "hazardous" and calls for protective measures to be taken.
Visibility is reduced to 100 yards in downtown Beijing. Travel has been disrupted with more than 100 flights cancelled, at a time when millions start the journey home for Chinese New Year.
The air is so bad that wealthy Chinese entrepreneur, Chen Guangbiao, is selling fresh air in soft drinks cans, similar to bottled drinking water. Each can is sold for 5RMB or about 80 cents. Chen is well known for his charitable donations and publicity stunts. He says he wants to stimulate awareness of environmental protection among government officials and citizens by selling the canned fresh air.