Shanghai endured another choking day yesterday with the air quality index surging past 300 into the highest range of severe pollution in a six-level system for the first time since official AQI records began a year ago.
Heavy pollution is forecast to continue this morning but alleviate later in the day.
By 5pm yesterday, the city’s air had been in the severely polluted zone for 10 hours, making it the worst day for air pollution since the index was launched last December.
The average AQI peaked at 317 at noon, with the highest recording of 329 in Yangpu District.
PM2.5 density stayed above 280 micrograms per cubic meter overnight until 9am, more than 3.7 times the nation’s limit of 75, which made the tiny particles that are hazardous to health the main pollutant.
The density of the larger PM10 particles peaked at 360 micrograms per cubic meter from 8am to 9am, 2.4 times the nation’s limit of 150 micrograms.
The Shanghai Meteorological Bureau upgraded its yellow haze alert, issued at 8pm on Sunday, to orange at 7:20am yesterday. It was the city’s first orange haze alert, the second-highest in a three-tier system that includes red.
Shan Yadi, a sanitation worker who was wearing a mask, said her company had told workers about the smoggy conditions in advance. “Every day we are exposed to dust and air pollutants so we need to protect ourselves from that,” she said.
But most people didn’t seem to be wearing masks or taking any protective measures against the pollution.
“You see, most of the pedestrians wear no masks,” an elderly woman surnamed Min said. “I heard about the heavily polluted air condition from a TV news report but thought it should be like that of usual days.”
An eighth grader in a local middle school said that though she and her family knew yesterday would be a poor air quality day, neither her parents nor teachers asked her to wear a mask.
The Shanghai Education Commission issued a directive to schools before classes began that they should reduce outdoor activities. A second notice in the morning ordered a halt to outdoor activities. Students who were late or absent yesterday and today would not be penalized, the commission said.
There may be some relief from the pollution this afternoon.
“An increase in winds is expected which will blow away the smog and bring a higher visibility later in the day,” said Kong Chunyan, a forecaster at the bureau.
Meanwhile, winter began last Thursday, the bureau said yesterday, after average temperatures stayed below 10 degrees Celsius for five straight days.