Living in Beijing’s polluted air

THERE was a great piece in yesterday’s Washington Post from a freelance writer living in Beijing.

Debra Bruno talks about what it’s like to live in a city whose air is so bad, even people who don’t smoke look like they have the lungs of a smoker.

Here’s an excerpt:

Foreigners living here talk about how the bad air causes them a plethora of health problems, from days-long headaches to bad coughs to sinus issues that require surgery. One expat told me that after a friend of hers had lived in Beijing for about three years, her doctor said her lungs looked like those of a pack-a-day smoker, even though she had never picked up a cigarette. Many parents refuse to let their children play outside, and one mother said her 2-year-old was starting to look like a vampire because he was so pale.

Ms Bruno also observes how the Chinese are coping with the bad air – and how it seems no solution is on the horizon:

Chinese people living in the capital often wear flimsy cloth masks, more decorative than protective, and they’re starting to get worried that the air is affecting their health. The government ordered some factories shut down and limited the number of government-owned cars in the city, but no one seems confident that an immediate and sustainable solution is near.

Living with bad air is worse than most people think – because most people can’t see how bad the air is.

This is also the case for indoor air. In fact most people don’t know that indoor air can be worse than outdoor air – which is actually the case with most households.

Hopefully this heightened awareness of air quality will also lead to people being more pro-active about taking control of the air they breathe – whether outdoors or indoors.


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