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Beijing air quality tops govt pollution index

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, Nov 22 (Reuters) Air pollution in Beijing, under pressure to provide clear skies before the 2008 Olympics, reached the worst level on a government air quality index.

Beijing's air pollution was rated ''hazardous'' -- the highest category in the China Environmental Monitoring Center's index -- for the 24-hour period ending at noon yesterday, Xinhua said.

For a second consecutive day, Beijing was blanketed in heavy fog, which reduced visibility to a few hundred metres, and had delayed at least 80 flights, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The capital's worsening pollution comes as China's environmental watchdog reported yesterday that national industrial emissions continued to soar in the first nine months of 2006.

Beijing has pledged to cut air pollution in the lead-up to the Olympics but faces an uphill battle as its increasingly wealthy population rushes to buy exhaust-emitting cars.

From July to September, one out of every three days were classified as polluted in Beijing and 15 other major cities and had affected the ''physical'' and ''psychological health'' of some 15 million people, the State Environmental Protection Agency said on its Web site.

REUTERS SSC VA RAI0844

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