06/12/2013 19:22 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

The Toxic Smog Cloud Hanging Over Shanghai Looks Just As Bad As It Sounds

PETER PARKS via Getty Images
An aircraft is barely visible through thick smog on the tarmac of Hongqiao airport in Shanghai as severe pollution blankets the city on December 6, 2013. The cities most harmful PM2.5 density soared to 468 micrograms per cubic metre by midnight more than 10 times the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization state media said. AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Shanghai is notorious for its terrible air quality, but the smog in this Chinese metropolis just hit absurd levels. The government's air pollution monitoring site records the level of PM2.5, particulate matter hazardous to health, at 477 as of this writing, one of the highest pollution levels ever recorded. The World Health Organization recommends an average PM2.5 level of 20 or below.

A fetid product of industrial pollution, car exhaust and particulate matter from coal burning, this blanket has been left to fester in the city's streets due to a bout of cold and still weather. It makes the city a dangerous place to be a living, breathing human right now. "Severely polluted" air, the government site states, puts residents at increased risk of cardiopulmonary diseases, and it's suggested that everyone in the city avoid outdoor activity.

This is a clear day in Shanghai:

And this is Shanghai at all-time high levels of air pollution:

A Reddit user posted photos taken on Thursday and Friday, showing the dramatic change: