BEIJING, Feb. 27 -- Drizzle and wind finally provided a breath of fresh air for Beijingers on Thursday after a week of heavy smog shrouded the city.
Beijing removed its orange alert for heavy air pollution at midnight on Wednesday.
A strong cold front that reached the capital on Wednesday night meant the air quality on Thursday was "good", according to Beijing environmental protection center. The air quality index at monitoring stations in downtown Beijing stood at 18 at 11 a.m.
Yao Hui, deputy chief of the municipal environmental protection bureau, was relieved when the orange alert was finally lifted.
Environmental officials like Yao were tormented by the smog, which was raised from a yellow alert to orange as air pollution soared.
Beijing has a four-tier alert system, using blue, yellow, orange and red to indicate the air pollution level.
"The worse the air quality was the more anxious I became. It is not just the smog but the public's expectations for cleaner air," Yao said.
Xu Wenshuai, senior engineer with the municipal Environment Monitoring Center, was also relieved.
For the past week Xu had to track data at the city's 35 PM2.5 monitoring stations.
"My heart beat faster every time I checked the PM2.5 readings," he said, "now I can catch a breath."
Under the orange alert, manufacturing plants suspended or cut production, building work was halted and barbecues were not allowed.
But some businessmen have been left disappointed as moneymaking opportunities have to come to an end for the time being.
Anti-pollution product sales surged during the past week. Online stores selling face masks struggled to meet demand.
According to statistics from Tmall.com, a business-to-consumer shopping platform, 217,000 people bought masks during the last seven days. Of the 29 models provided by U.S. industrial and equipment supplier 3M's flagship store on the platform, 26 were sold out on Wednesday.
In Beijing, 13,400 air purifiers were sold from Feb. 19 to Feb. 25. The number was triple that of the previous week.
But Yang Zhongfeng, an air purifier agent, does not expect business to blossom in the immediate future.
"I have made a profit, but frankly speaking, no one wants to ruin one's health by cashing in on smog," Yang said.
The lingering smog has worried Beijingers, especially those who work outside.
A courier surnamed Zhang said, "People told me to stop work because the smog may be dangerous to my health, but I have to make a living."
Zhang said he was not fully aware of the potential risks caused by the smog, but that he did not feel uncomfortable by it.
Traffic police officer Zhang Lihui said, "I could tell there was no smog this morning. My nose was not blocked, so I knew it was a sunny day," Zhang said.
Zhang was among 7,000 traffic officers exposed to the choking air.
Smog, vehicle exhaust and cooking from restaurants mixed together made traffic officer Ren Yongjie feel ill and he worries about the smog returning.
He said officers were exposed to smog for eight or nine hours a day. "We are used to it, but some of my colleagues have respiratory diseases."
Beijing citizen Wu Xiaoyi said Thursday's clean air may not last.
"The forecast said the chance of smog is slim in the next seven days, but what about the week after the next seven days, or more?" he asked.