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Beijing's Air Pollution is the Worse
What is happening to Beijing, China and other Chinese cities happened to many US cities in the late 60's and into the 70's-bad, real bad air pollution. However, China has far fewer cars causing the problem than the US did, but they have many factories and chemical plants spewing out toxins and everything without much pollution controls. China is suffering from the rapid growth of its own industrialization just in the past 10 years, now, it is haunting them.
How bad is the air? Bad, bad. To give you an idea, the air pollution index for NYC runs from 0-100 on most days throughout the year, in fact, most US cities have this index level. Weather can make the rating to 200, which is considered unhealthy for some sensitive people. Few US cities ever hit 300, or very unhealthy. You would have advisories to stay inside, curtail activity. If the rating ever reached 300 to 500, there would be a US emergency health warning for the area. So far, that has not happened. That is the top of the air pollution ratings-500.
Beijing's air pollution index is WAY beyond that, it reached 755 recently and can be at 450 on many days. Photos show the orange-brownish LA-like smog making visibility difficult even for drivers, let alone aircraft. Most locals wore surgical masks when doing anything outside.