Experts are saying the worst is still to come, as discrepancies between official monitoring data and figures from the US embassy are challenged.
Grey skies cleared in the capital yesterday after overnight drizzle and wind helped lift the choking smog that has hung over Beijing for most of the past two weeks.
But the heated debate triggered by the city’s worsening air pollution problems looks unlikely to abate amid warnings that residents can expect only a brief respite.
The worst is yet to come, according to environmental and meteorological experts, with the city about to begin four months of coal-fired central heating next weekend.
Four days of heavy pollution in the past week saw reports of respiratory disease and brain dysfunction rise 13 per cent compared to the previous week, statistics from the Beijing Emergency Medical Centre showed.
Doctors had warned that people, especially patients with asthma, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, should understand the health hazards of air pollution and try to avoid going outside when smog was at its heaviest, the Beijing Times reported.
However, mainland officials and government-linked experts remain reluctant to acknowledge the severity of Beijing’s pollution.
Instead of explaining why the government data constantly showed positive air quality figures even on smoggy days like those in the past two weeks, they tried vigorously to discredit pollution readings from the US embassy, which are updated hourly on Twitter.
The city has yet to include readings for health-threatening fine particulates, known as PM 2.5 (airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter) despite two years of talk by mainland officials, and widespread public appeals.
A report by the 21st Century Business Herald yesterday said opposition from development-minded local authorities had delayed the inclusion of PM2.5 due to fears that the bleak reality about air pollution, if made public, could fuel public distrust and threaten economic growth and stability.
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