I’ve been living in Beijing now since 2008. I remember when those who wore facemasks were the strange-looking passersby. I remember when everyone I knew was starting to get air filters and I hummed and hawed about their necessity. Now, I barely know a family without them.
Last week’s record-breaking air followed by this week’s red alert has me, once again, asking myself what I’m doing here. Why have I spent so much money outfitting my home to be leak-proof, buying air filters, replacing cartridges, and now obsessing over my Laser Egg, my newest and most prized possession? Why am I so interested in these technologies: monitoring, analyzing, assessing my home’s safety levels rather than just moving my kids back to my clean-air country?
It’s complicated. Here in China, we have our lives established. The adults in this family are employed and my daughter is enrolled at school. We have childcare in place for our son. Our home has a lease and, and, and…
But when the red alert came in this week, I thought: none of those things are binding. Will this really get any better? Is the impact on my kids’ lungs the cost of my optimism?
If nothing else, I feel relieved that I have successfully gotten one large room in my home under 10 for PM2.5. This is thanks to an excellent air filter, sealed windows and the confirmation of my Laser Egg, an excellent tool that helps me stay on top of the air quality in my house whether I am home or not.
Now I have other windows to seal and new cartridges to buy for my less impressive air filters that are chugging away in the other rooms, which I can only get to 59 and 35 respectively. The pricey quest for perfect air in Beijing continues.
Anyway, here we are so we’d better do what we can—for the sake of those little lungs we need to protect—perhaps while simultaneously (and sadly) planning our inevitable exits.
Photos: Ember Swift