Beijing air pollution hits catastrophic heights

Air pollution in the Chinese capital of Beijing has hit hazardous levels, as large swathes of the country are engulfed by smoggy weather conditions.

The official measure of PM2.5, referring to minute airborne particulate matter which is the most hazardous for human health, peaked at 993 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing over the weekend.

The inhalation of fine particular matter over long periods of time can significantly raise rates of lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory illness.

The US Embassy to China, which has previously been reprimanded by the Chinese government for publishing independent air pollution data for Beijing, draws into relief the dire pollution levels:

Much of China's air pollution is the result of the country's heavy dependence upon coal to power its breakneck economic development. China is currently the world's number one importer of the solid fossil fuel.

The country's political leaders are nonetheless striving to expand the country's energy portfolio to include a great amount of nuclear power and renewables, in order to alleviate the severe environmental stress that coal-fuelled power plants can create.