Beijing pollution is becoming a “public health catastrophe,” expert says

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f305 (Published 16 January 2013)
Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f305

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  1. Jane Parry
  1. 1Hong Kong

The heavy smog blanketing Beijing and other major cities in central and eastern China highlights the public health catastrophe accompanying the country’s rapid economic development, a leading expert on air pollution has said.

“The levels we have seen in the last few days are approaching those of the catastrophic London fog in 1952, which killed 4500 people in five days,” said Anthony Hedley, honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health.

Pollution levels in Beijing started climbing late last week, with the level of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5), which can penetrate deep into the lungs, peaking at 993 micrograms per cubic metre, 40 times the World Health Organization’s maximum limit for safe exposure. Although such …

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