|Beijing from Space: NASA image|
At it's peak on January 12th the U.S. embassy measured the airborne fine particle count at a shocking 886 micrograms per cubic meter of air. That's the highest since monitoring began in 2007. The World Health Organization considers the air safe when it is below 25.
The overall air quality index rating was measured at 775. According to the AQI ranking system, anything over 300 is "Hazardous" – and not just for those with respiratory issues, but for anyone that breathes.
The situation has been dubbed "Airpocalypse" and is the result of several factors including surrounding mountains which trap pollutants low in the atmosphere, the lack of wind and the proliferation of factories and coal burning.