Patients seeking treatment for respiratory ailments rose by about 30 percent over the past month at the Jiangong Hospital in downtown Beijing, Emergency Department chief Cui Qifeng said.
"People tend to catch colds or suffer from lung infections during the days with heavily polluted air," he said.
Air pollution has long been a problem in Beijing, but the country has been more open about releasing statistics on PM2.5 — considered a more accurate reflection of air quality than other pollutants — only since early last year. The city hit its highest readings on Jan. 12, when U.S. Embassy readings of PM2.5 reached as high as 886 micrograms per cubic meter.
Celebrity real estate developer Pan Shiyi, who has previously pushed for cities to publish more detailed air quality data and who is a delegate to Beijing's legislature, called Tuesday morning for a "Clean Air Act." By late afternoon, his online poll had received more than 29,000 votes, with 99 percent in favor.
On Monday, Wang Anshun was elected Beijing's mayor after telling lawmakers the municipal government should make more efforts to fight air pollution, according to Xinhua.
Last week, he announced plans to remove 180,000 older vehicles from the city's roads and promote government cars and heating systems that use clean energy.
Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen and researcher Flora Ji contributed to this report.