Beijing warns residents to stay out of toxic snow: 'The snow is very dirty!'

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By Ada Carr for Weather.com

Snow days typically mean no school and plenty of snowman making; however, in Beijing, officials have warned residents to avoid the snow at all costs.

Data from China's Ministry of Environmental Protection revealed that over the past month the city's average air quality index peaked at 470. Safe levels are at just 25 by the World Health Organization's standards.

The particles in the air have contaminated the snow, making the usually crisp precipitation toxic.

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Beijing welcomed 2017 from beneath a blanket of smog
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Beijing welcomed 2017 from beneath a blanket of smog
Buildings are seen on a hazy day in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China December 31, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT.
Buildings are seen on a hazy day in Xiangyang, Hubei province, China December 31, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 01: The honor guards march to the Tiananmen Square during the flag-raising ceremony on January 1, 2017 in Beijing, China. About 26,000 people come to watch the flag-raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square on the first Day of 2017 in Beijing. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
A man swims in a lake on a heavily polluted day in Beijing on January 1, 2017. Beijing woke on the first morning of the New Year covered in thick toxic fog, with a concentration of harmful particles 20 times higher than international standards. After a long period of pollution in December, the Chinese capital was again smothered on January 1 in an acrid grey haze which limited visibility to a few hundred metres. / AFP / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Buildings are seen on a polluted day in Beijing on January 1, 2017. China's capital city started the year under a heavy blanket of grey smog, with a concentration of toxic particles 20 times higher than the maximal level recommended by the World Health Organization, as a new pollution cloud was - again - striking the country. / AFP / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Visitors walk beside a lake on a heavily polluted day in Beijing on January 1, 2017. China's capital city started the year under a heavy blanket of grey smog, with a concentration of toxic particles 20 times higher than the maximal level recommended by the World Health Organization, as a new pollution cloud was - again - striking the country. / AFP / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
A Chinese woman walks on a heavily polluted day in Beijing on January 1, 2017. China's capital city started the year under a heavy blanket of grey smog, with a concentration of toxic particles 20 times higher than the maximal level recommended by the World Health Organization, as a new pollution cloud was - again - striking the country. / AFP / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - 2017/01/01: A couple of lovers, wearing mask, take a selfie with the background of Tiananmen Rostrum in heavy haze. On the first day of 2017, Beijing suffered its first severe haze disaster of the new year. At the same time, more than 20 Chinese cities declared orange alert of air pollution. (Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A couple walk beside a lake on a heavily polluted day in Beijing on January 1, 2017. China's capital city started the year under a heavy blanket of grey smog, with a concentration of toxic particles 20 times higher than the maximal level recommended by the World Health Organization, as a new pollution cloud was - again - striking the country. / AFP / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - 2017/01/01: A girl helps her boyfriend wear special mask to prevent breathing in the toxic air particles. On the first day of 2017, Beijing suffered its first severe haze disaster of the new year. At the same time, more than 20 Chinese cities declared orange alert of air pollution. (Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)
People wear masks on a hazy day in Beijing, China, December 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Men walk outside at a construction site in Beijing, China, December 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
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"We suggest everybody stays indoors," Beijing's Meteorological Bureau said in an announcement obtained by TIME. "The snow is very dirty! The snow is very dirty! The snow is very dirty!"

The office added that it is "not pretentious to use an umbrella on a snowing smoggy day," it is advised.

On Jan. 4, China issued its first-ever national red alert for severe fog after two dozen cities reported persistent air pollution issues, according to a previous report.

The red alert mandated such measures as limiting car usage and closing factories to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the atmosphere.

While that was the first national red alert, it is common for pollution alerts to be issued during the winter months in the northern provinces of China, which rely on the burning of hundreds of millions of tons of coal each year to heat homes and businesses during the country's brutal winters.

In 2014, China began a "war on pollution" but continues to struggle in its efforts to tackle the problem.

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