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Living with smog

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2014-03-19 07:39

Living with smog

[Photo by Gullermo Munro/China Daily]

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With smog dominating our life and headlines, sales of air purifiers and masks are flying off the shelves. Liu Zhihua explores how people cope with the pollution.

For 30-year-old Beijing resident Xu Qiong, the first thing he does after waking up every morning is to check the air quality index on his smartphone, and then decide whether to wear a mask.

He is not alone. That's the norm for many people in Beijing, Shanghai and many regions in China that are often covered by thick smog and haze.

The most severe spell lasted for more than 20 days in 17 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in early 2013.

Apps providing air quality index readings have mushroomed in the smartphone sphere, and products related to protection against air pollution, such as masks and air purifiers, are constantly sold out.

While people wait for wind and precipitation to clear the air, food that is rumored to fight against air pollution exposure, such as black fungus and pears, tops many people's shopping lists.

Some multinational companies have increased the hardship allowance of their employees. For example, Japan's electronic firm Panasonic recently announced to their staff members in China that they will be paid more to compensate for the air pollution.

"In the past, few had heard the term PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometers), but now many realize the risk of being exposed to PM2.5," says Zhang Shunan, director with the respiratory diseases department of China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing.

The number of Zhang's patients increases during smoggy days.

Most of the patients are senior citizens and children, but there are more young people who suffer from coughs, asthma, sore throats and other respiratory illnesses, Zhang adds.

Scientists have long established that PM2.5, which forms haze and smog when dispersing through the atmosphere, is hazardous to people's health. There have been severe air pollution episodes in history, such as in London in 1959.

In influential medical journals, such as The Lancet and JAMA, there have been articles and studies on the health risks of exposure to fine particulate air pollution since the 1970s.

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