Freaked out about air pollution? We all are at some point. Whether you’ve lived here for a short time or longer than you thought you might, some days just beg the question – what exactly are we breathing?!
Countless blog posts, medical articles, presentations and the like discuss the issue. Official monitors, measurements and air purifiers are debated. No one is arguing the fact – and it is a fact – that the air quality in Beijing is less than desirable. Even Beijing admits that. But the reality is that we live here. Regardless of whether we’re here short/long term, had any/no choice about moving here in the first place, or whatever the individual situation, we are here right now, and we have to choose how to deal poor air quality.
So, let’s get the negative out of the way. Yes, it’s bad; yes, it’s dangerous; and yes, it poses many health risks. Yes, it likely decreases life expectancy somewhat and yes, our children are likely affected more than we are due to their developing lungs and their more frequent outdoor physical activity. The fine particles to be most aware of are the PM 2.5 kind found in diesel fuels, dust, cigarettes – things you see here. They are small enough to enter the blood stream and harder to protect against. Keeping in mind that 2,000 cars were added per day in Beijing last year, you can see the concern.
Not good news no matter how you look at it. But again, we live here. How do we cope? We arm ourselves with information that may help us relax a little, and we learn tips about how to make things a bit easier in combatting the pollution we breathe.
*Air purifiers. To put it simply, get them. Many of them. There are those who don’t believe air purifiers do much good, but the majority believes the benefits far outweighing the cost/trouble to buy them. There are things to keep in mind, though, to make them work better for you. Use a HEPA filter (High-Efficiency Particulate Air). Do NOT push the ionizer or ozone button on the machine –they actually create ozone in your house, and that “fresh” smell is just a mask. Make sure that you have enough air purifiers or large enough ones for the space(s) of your room/house.
*Plants. We’ve read that there are some plants that actually help clear the air in your house. With all the pinyin supplied, just get to the flower market and buy them (two blog posts on the topic: http://www.beijing-kids.com/blog/dibeijing/2011/10/10/Helpful-Houseplants-for-your-Home, and http://www.beijing-kids.com/blog/beijingkids/2009/12/30/Clean-Green-Air). Green thumb or not, plants are always a good thing to have around, and if it helps your air quality, then it’s a no-brainer.
*Websites. Sometimes, having too much information available creates a frenzy of worry. But many prefer that to know is to be better informed in making decisions. I’m of the latter type. If I’m given a bunch of websites to check, I probably will. I might not read them all in their entirety, but at least I have the information available to me. Here are some to check (some are U.S. specific, but have good overall air quality information): livefrombeijing.com, myhealthbeijing.com, lantiantian.com, toranacleanair.com, airnow.gov, epa.gov.
*Get out! You know how you just feel better and breathe better during a long holiday away? Escaping to clean air give your lungs a better chance of staying healthy for the long term. So that home leave? Your R&R? Take it and breathe deeply. Some say that a month away per year is good; others say that a month every eight months or so is better.
*Know your limits. Air pollution is literally in our face, but we are inundated with it in the news as well. Even if you weren’t worried or if your kids were unaware, this is likely no longer the case. Becoming overly-anxious and stressed about it all simply creates a new health problem to manage. Know that there are small things you can do to help improve breathing conditions for your family, and try not to worry about that which cannot be changed.