For the fourth straight day
, health authorities in multiple Chinese cities advised residents to stay indoors Monday, as a blanket of smog continued to choke much of China after recording "beyond index" levels this weekend at air quality monitoring stations run by the government and one run by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
The capital and 32 other cities suffered "hazardous" air this weekend, local media reported, swelling hospitals with patients reporting respiratory and heart problems. Face masks sold quickly at pharmacies, and some airports and highways suffered delays and closures amid greatly reduced visibility.
But the government's increased disclosure of pollution data, and the state media's blanket coverage of the crisis, encouraged some Chinese environmentalists to see a silver lining amid the clouds darkening the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, where the priority of fast economic growth routinely swamps environmental concerns.