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Beijing Issues First "Orange" Pollution Alert

Update Date: Feb 22, 2014 11:13 PM EST
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For the very first time, Beijing has raised its four-tiered smog alert system to 'orange' as heavy smog forecast to roll into the capital for next three days. Concerned officials have advised people to stay indoors and use public transport. 

The orange alert is the second-highest in the four level of urgency. 

"Yesterday, I thought it was bad enough when I went out to eat. But this morning I was hacking," said a Beijing pedestrian, according to AP.

Previous month, Beijing experienced a density readings of PM 2.5 particles exceeding 500 micrograms per cubic meter which managed to prompt only the mildest - the blue level alert. 

The measures went into affect Friday in which people were advised to use public transportation and turn off the cars rather running idle. 

The accurate forecast of heavy pollution for three days was technically difficult, said Ma Jun, a member of the non-governmental Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing. 

However, in this case the government was reluctant to adopt the most disruptive measures as it would be impossible to make aware all drivers of the rules. 

"When the alert is at a low level, the measures are not effective, but those for the high-level alert are not feasible," Ma said, according to AP. "The government is reluctant to raise the alert level."

Ma also credited the Chinese government with becoming more open in recent months about air pollution levels. He further noted that people are receiving real-time government updates about the capital's air quality on their mobile phones. 

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