SHANGHAI - Record pollution levels that saw Shanghai engulfed by acrid smog on Friday caused flight cancelations, shortages of face masks and made some expatriates reconsider their long-term plans to stay in the city.
"It's horrifying. I've never seen anything like this. I feel like I've had a constant hangover for four days," said Tom Duvalier of Chicago. "If you go down into the subway system, the same smell is in the air. It's everywhere."
The air quality index measured by the Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center stood at 482 as of 6 pm, while the US Consulate gauged it at 503 at 2 pm - a reading "beyond the index". Levels above 300 are considered "hazardous".
It was the highest level of pollution recorded since Shanghai set up its measuring system last December, beating records set on Monday and Thursday, local media reported.
The smog in Shanghai follows severe pollution that affected Beijing and Harbin in Heilongjiang province in recent months.
A British expatriate working in the financial sector in Shanghai said: "The pollution is the talk of the office. People are asking if it's cancerous, reminding everyone to wear their face masks and saying that babies should not be taken outside.
"There are no masks left in 7-Eleven. They've sold out. People are saying that if it continues like this, they're not sure if they want to stay here long-term."
The Shanghai meteorological department forecast that a cold front from northern China will bring winds to blow the dust particles out of the city by Monday.
To reduce emissions, the municipal authorities issued a notice in the afternoon, halting production at some industrial enterprises temporarily and at outdoor construction projects.
It also removed one in three government cars from the roads. Shanghai is one of a handful of Chinese cities with more than 2 million cars.
The severe pollution has triggered fears that companies in the city will struggle to attract high-quality overseas talent.