China issues 2nd highest warning for smog

Sporting a pollution mask has become a necessity in China. Chinese designer Wang Zhijun shows his versions that are repurposed from expensive sneakers and fitted with 3M filters.
Sporting a pollution mask has become a necessity in China. Chinese designer Wang Zhijun shows his versions that are repurposed from expensive sneakers and fitted with 3M filters. PHOTOS: INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT OF WANG ZHIJUN

BEIJING • China's meteorological authority yesterday upgraded its smog alert from yellow to orange, the second most serious level, as air quality worsened in many parts of the country.

Parts of Beijng, Tianjin, Hebei, Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi will be covered with unhealthy levels of smog for 24 hours from 8pm yesterday, reported Xinhua news agency.

Some regions will experience heavy pollution with visibility less than 500m, said the National Meteorological Centre (NMC).

The NMC issued a yellow alert for smog yesterday morning, but upgraded it to orange in the evening.

China has a four-tier warning system for severe weather, with red being the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

When the orange alert is in force, outdoor activities in schools will be cancelled and construction projects suspended.

Despite government efforts to fight pollution, frequent outbreaks of smog have become increasingly common during winter months in northern China.

China's largely coal-fired urban heating systems have to be cranked up further this year as the La Nina weather phenomenon brings a colder winter to Beijing and its surrounding regions.

As pollution masks become a necessity in China, they have turned into a fashion accessory.

Chinese designer Wang Zhijun has made name for himself after repurposing high-end sneakers into designer face masks. He started making the masks in 2014 and has since produced around 20 different pieces which are fitted with 3M filters. One of them, made from Kanye West-designed, limited edition Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2s, drew a bid of more US$5,000 (S$7,150) on eBay China.

But the 34-year-old stressed that he did not make them for a profit.

"Their purpose is to raise awareness about pollution in China. They are a creative project - my own campaign to tackle the issue," he told CNN.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2016, with the headline 'China issues 2nd highest warning for smog'. Print Edition | Subscribe