Beijing's first snowfall this winter has helped reduce the pollution level. The air pollution index (API) dropped from a high of 247 on Tuesday to 162 yesterday, meteorological authorities said.
A cold front is forecast for the capital in the coming week and will further reduce the API to about 100, barring a big change in emissions, Li Xin, chief engineer of the Beijing municipal environment protection bureau, said.
"Beijing is surrounded by three mountain ranges and the coming rain, winds and snow could have a positive impact on the capital's air quality," Li said.
She said the pollution index is still high.
An API of 51 to 100 indicates fairly good air quality, the China Environmental Monitoring Center said.
An index of 101 to 150 means slight pollution, while an API in excess of 200 means severe air pollution.
Beijing commuters should make more use of public transport to reduce emissions, she said.
On Jan 1, new measures will be introduced to move coal-burning industries out of the city. "They will be replaced with ones that use gas to help reduce pollution," Li said.
On Tuesday, Beijing experienced one of its most polluted days, with the index hitting 247 citywide and 399 in the southern outskirts.
Hospitals have reported a rise in recent weeks in the number of people seeking treatment for respiratory ailments.
Zhang Shunan, a doctor at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, said: "I have been treating up to 60 people a day.
Half of them were elderly suffering from coughs because of the polluted air."
Deng Yu, who is seven months pregnant, said she suffered from throat pains when she got up on Tuesday morning.
"I kept tearing when I went out shopping. I was told such conditions are caused by excessive sulfur dioxide in the air," she said.
Source: China Daily