A Toxic Smog Is Bringing Life to a Halt in China Right Now

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A man wearing a mask walks ahead of a group of people as he visits the Temple of Heaven amid heavy air pollution in Beijing on December 20, 2016. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

A dense cloud of noxious pollution has enveloped parts of northern and central China for nearly a week. It’s a smog “red alert” — the most severe level — that’s been dubbed the “airpocalypse.” About half a billion people are at risk of breathing in this hazardous air, so thick and murky that it masks the cities’ structures.

The abysmal air quality — and visibility — shuttered schools and roads. At one closed school in Henan, a province in central China, about 400 still had to take exams — but out on a football field cloaked in a filthy haze. The school’s superintendent has reportedly been suspended.

Hundreds of flights have been canceled. A large port in northern China had to suspend operations involving coal and iron ore, reports CNBC. Some 3,000 construction sites also halted work.

There are also reports of thousands of “air refugees” — people who are fleeing the smog because of the “hazardous” (as in Beijing) or “unhealthy” air-quality levels. Face masks are mandatory for those who venture outside.

Photo: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Forecasters expect the red alert to end in most areas within the next 24 hours, in part because of winds blowing in that will disperse the pollutants that have been concentrated for days. Industrial pollution from burning coal, worsened by weather patterns, is responsible for the toxic soup. The Chinese government has blamed the high humidity and lack of wind for the most recent air crisis, but most critics say China really isn’t doing enough to implement its environmental regulations. According to Reuters, some lawyers are suing the government for failing to do enough to deal with the smog problem — which has intermittently plagued regions of China – but definitely helped in perpetrating.

Or, who knows, maybe it’s just another one of China’s environmental hoaxes.

A Toxic Smog Is Bringing Life to a Halt in China Right Now