Feb. 26 - Breathing clean air is costly in Beijing as the pollution alert raises to ''orange'' for the first time. ''Smog domes'' at some schools cost nearly $1.8 million per month. Gavino Garay reports.
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Toxic levels of smog that go far beyond the standards acceptable by the World Health Organization over the skies of Beijing.
And there's no sign the smog is clearing up.
China's environment ministry vows to be heavy-handed, saying they'll "harshly punish" factories and power plants that contribute to the hazardous conditions.
For the first time on Friday, Beijing raised he pollution alert to the second-highest "orange" level.
Official government monitors have measured the the level of PM2.5 particles at over 400 outside.
The WHO recommends a number around 20.
Which is what the air inside these smog domes at the Western Academy of Beijing is reading.
It allows the kids to play sports, where otherwise, the skies over this outdoor soccer field aren't visible.
But Beijing international schools with such smog domes cost a pretty penny.
They use HEPA filters and cost around $1.8 million dollars to run, per month.
The Director of the Western Academy of Beijing, Dr. J. Courtney Lowe:
(SOUNDBITE) (English) DIRECTOR OF WESTERN ACADEMY OF BEIJING, DR. J. COURTNEY LOWE, SAYING:
"Probably, with outdoor activities like these, anywhere around 10 percent of our sessions would be canceled because of smog. In a week like we're experiencing now, that would have been 100 percent cancellation. So it's hard to say over the course of the year, but this is the kind of thing that this has really enhanced for us."
And while authorities have issued countless orders and promises to clean up the environment, the problem only seems to be getting worse.
Enforcement of policy is difficult at the local level, where authorities often depend on the taxes paid by the polluting industries.