Editor’s Note: All of us expats living in China know that pollution has a huge impact on our lives. That said, instead of living in perpetual fear of PM 2.5, there are some things you can do and some precautions you can take to make your life a little easier and a little more comfortable on those days when you can’t see the sun.
It’s no secret that China has a terrible pollution problem. Even though India has surpassed China as the world’s most polluted country and Premier Li Keqiang even declared “war” on pollution in 2014, living in some places China still makes you a chain smoker by default. If you’re a health nut looking for top tips for smoggy days, you’ve found the Holy Grail.
The Three Essentials: Air Purifiers, Masks and Apps
Air Purifiers (price 1,000 RMB and up) are essential when living in the Middle Kingdom. Some of the best known brands are from Phillips, Honeywell, and Midea. Phillips, from a marketing point of view, is the most aesthetic and it carries a well-trusted name. Ditto for Honeywell. Chinese brands like Midea are cheaper with great value, but many Westerners are hesitant to buy “made in China.” For more info on specific air purifiers, click here for our eChinacities analysis.
Next are masks, don’t leave home without them. I use Vogmask (price around 500 RMB), but there are a few others that our eChinacities team recommends. For the love of God, don’t use a medical mask. They will do very little in protecting your lungs against harmful particles. Get a better one that fits tightly against your face. It’s common sense, people!
The last of the three essentials is technology. Check out the Air Matters app, it’s free and, in my opinion, it’s the best. By knowing the air quality (or lack thereof), you’ll know when to use your mask and when to use your air purifier. It can also provide an AQI forecast for the upcoming days, something that will help you decide if it’s time to get out of Dodge for the weekend (more on that later).
First, did you know your AC will suck in PM2.5 particles? It may seem obvious, but I can’t count how many times I go to friends’ houses and they have the air purifier on whilst blasting the AC. This is counterproductive. When hot, use a fan. When cold, get a space heater. Problem solved. If you’re really cautious, on high AQI days put towels to block the airflow from under your door. PM2.5 particles are very tiny and can most certainly sneak into your home from any small openings.
Second, exercise is vitally important to staying healthy in polluted areas. In fact, according to one study from the University of Copenhagen, “the positive effects of exercise are more important to our overall health than living a pollution-free life.” Do outdoor exercise when then AQI is under 100 (though after a jog on days between 50-100 I’ll still have a scratchy throat the next day). When over 100, exercise at home. Try exercises like kettlebell, floor exercises, etc., just make sure to have your air purifier on with the AC off. Sweating will do wonders to rid your body of toxins.
Third, along with exercising, it’s recommended to eat healthy with pollution fighting foods. According to Cambridge Mask, olive oil, flaxseed, avocado, broccoli, tomato, and even white wine do wonders for nasty particles trapped in your body. The site claims that “research has shown that certain foods which are rich in vitamin C and E can help to clean your system, particularly your airways.” (There’s still more research to be done on this subject, but regardless, these foods are healthy for you anyway.)
I drink a smoothie everyday, making sure to get a healthy dose of the above mentioned superfoods. TheBlendery.com has a specific list of several pollution fighting smoothies that will keep your body clean. The owners of this world-famous site are actually China expats, so they know first-hand the importance of staying healthy on hazy days. Apart from smoothies, another tip is to drink lots of water to flush your body out.
Fourth, go green and get pollution combating plants. There are numerous plants out there that are clinically proven to absorb harmful pollution and release oxygen. Check out some of the options listed here, I have several of these in my apartment. Not only are plants a cheap and organic way to stay fresh on gray days, they also double as room decorations.
Lastly, the only way to beat pollution 100% is to go to a place with no pollution. The World Health Organization recommends AQI 20 and below as healthy. With today’s technology, use your Air Matters app to see the AQI forecast. If black clouds are coming your way on the weekend, get out of town! Head to the mountains, or coast, or small village away from urban areas where the pollution levels are usually higher. Your Air Matters app has a map of world AQI levels, so you should be able to easily spot a brighter place.
According research outlined but the Huffington Post, about 4,400 people per day die from pollution related illnesses in China alone – a drastic increase from the past. Obviously, pollution is a serious threat to families living in China, particularly those with young children. By taking as many of the recommended precautions mentioned in this article, you will greatly protect you and your loved ones from cancer-causing carcinogens.
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Keywords: China pollution AQI
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