Holding my breath

For the past few days the air pollution here in Beijing has been at record levels.

Yesterday it was absolutely frightful – at midday we could not see from one side of the street to the other, everything was shrouded in a murky, grey haze. You could smell it and taste it.

air pollution BJ Jan 2013

Air pollution levels are obtained by measuring the number of micrograms of airborne PM2.5 particulates (which are the particles hazardous to health) per cubic meter of air.  PM2.5 sizeThese are measured daily by both the Beijing  Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center and by the US Embassy here which sends out a daily tweet – much to the annoyance of the Beijing authorities.

Air Quality Index 1

Yesterday according to the US embassy air quality ratings for the city, which had  ranged between “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” since Thursday, reached the “beyond index” mark during the afternoon. Monitors there recorded off-the-chart air-quality readings as high as 845 at 8pm on Saturday.

Everyone with any sense is staying indoors unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside – which we unfortunately had to do yesterday. Today we were due to go and have Sunday lunch in a friend’s apartment. She phoned to cancel as she had not been out shopping to buy food, and none of her guests were keen to venture out and search for taxis in the poisonous gloom.  BJ air baby mask

Many Chinese have great confidence that face masks will protect them from the particles, but frankly the pollution is so bad that you would have to have the kind of industrial facemasks you might find in a chemical plant for them to be of any use.

My eyes feel irritated, and I hate to think what the inside of my lungs look like.Would you do me a favour?  go outside and take a deep breath of fresh air and appreciate it,  I used to take it for granted.


About herschelian

Started my 60s by moving to China with my DH. Surprised to find I am still here in Beijing eight years later - still finding it an adventure!
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9 Responses to Holding my breath

  1. Murray says:

    Well, it did my heart good to read that. Are you kidding? Please, please stay indoors and even while indoors rest, rest, rest.

  2. This i s very interesting and shocking too – its made the BBC news headlines today here in the UK – so it must be fairly bad!!

  3. Marj says:

    Wow and the air is so clear and still here in Cape Town – breathing for you Jo…..

  4. Joy Willers says:

    Reminds me of the great smog in London!! That was caused by coal fires, and we have cleaned up and moved on since then. Sad to think the same (other causes) still happens today!

  5. Dee says:

    What about a week or two’s respite in the clear Hermanus air?

  6. Kit says:

    Appreciating every breath I take here!
    i always used to wonder at the old-fashioned insistence on washing behind the ears and references to ‘tide-marks’ in pre-war novels. Now I realise that you did get dirty behind the neck and ears just from the smoggy air in cities back then.
    Hope the smog lifts for you very soon – can’t imagine how awful it is not to be able to go out because the air is too dangerous to breathe.

  7. Sheila Taylor says:

    How horrible – I hate that you are suffering this. What a vile climate Beijing has – boiling in the summer and freezing in the winter and dreadful air quality most of the time. it is quite apocalyptic and just shows what happens when industry and vehicles are not controlled. A ticking time bomb. Stay indoors and order in the food! x

  8. Thanks for writing about this. This story made our news and I was wondering how accurate it was. Scary that things are so bad in Beijing.

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