Beijing, the capital of China, announced an environmental “red alert” on Monday in response to unprecedented levels of pollution in the city.

This is Beijing’s first ever “red alert” on their four-color scale which indicates the toxicity of pollution in the air. The alert resulted in a closing of schools in the region and a halt of all construction activity. The levels of debris in the air is many times more than what is safe for people to inhale, and even inside next to an air purifier, the air is still too polluted to safely breathe.

Many citizens of Beijing are falling ill due to the heavy smog, suffering from skin allergies and burning throats.

In fact, this dangerous air quality has shown to have a very real, very fatal, effect on citizens in China.

“The issuing of a ‘red’ pollution alert means, first and foremost, that the Beijing authorities are taking air quality, and related health issues, very seriously,” Dr. Bernhard Schwartländer, the representative of the World Health Organization in China, said in a written statement. The group helped lead a 2010 study whose data showed outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total.

This dangerous pollution is the sort of fate the U.S. could fall prey to if corporations and right wing de-regulators get their way.

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Sydney Robinson is a political writer for the Ring of Fire Network. She has also appeared in political news videos for Ring of Fire. Sydney has a degree in English Literature from the University of West Florida, and has an active interest in politics, social justice, and environmental issues. She would love to hear from you on Twitter @SydneyMkay or via email at srobinson@ringoffireradio.com