Air Pollution From Cars Is Killing Everyone In BeijingS

No one would ever go to Beijing for its crisp air and clear skies, but smog problem in China's capital has, evidently, gotten way out of control.

NPR reported Saturday that the smog in the second-most populous Chinese city was thick and causing people's eyes to burn, with residents being urged to stay indoors.

The scene is reminiscent of what major U.S. cities saw in the 1950s and 1960s. It's so severe that the level of pollution was, according to NPR, "literally off the charts," because the U.S. Embassy's smog index stops at 500 and the projected index in Beijing was closer to 800. Things in the 300 or higher range are usually pretty bad to begin with.

The contributing factors to heavy smog? Cars, of course, which have exploded in popularity in the last decade in China, and in Beijing in particular. There have been measures to slow the car congestion, but things like limiting the amount of new vehicle registrations have just made people stand in long lines. And talk offering rebates on electric vehicles sounds like a great idea, until you remember that it's coal producing most of the city's electricity. Still, something tells me emission controls are going to be a talked-about item at the next Beijing Auto Show.

If you're traveling to Beijing in the next few days, some kind of face mask is advisable if you're going to be outside. There are some styled like pandas and with Hello Kitty motifs, but I wonder if there's something of the Lamborghini or Ferrari variety. I'd rock that.

Check out the video below to see what Beijing looked like on Saturday. It's pretty gray.

Photo credit AP

Video credit Agence France Presse