Dealing With China’s Winter Pollution


Starting at the end of fall and the beginning of winter, China’s pollution comes back stronger to remind us that it really never left in the first place. There is one main reason why AQI numbers tick up during this time period. With temperatures dropping in the winter, the use of indoor heating begins and with China’s dependence on the use of coal, air quality suffers with it. 

Just because the air is dirty, doesn’t mean that you have no choice but to breathe it in, you can take measures to reduce the impact of air pollution on your health. 

What is AQI? What does it mean?
Air Quality Index or AQI was created to allow the general public easily understand pollution levels and the affects that it can have on one’s body. The index is broken down differently based on country. There is some variation between the way each level is described. The US starts with “Good”, followed by “Moderate”, “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”, “Unhealthy”, “Very Unhealthy” and “Hazardous”. China on the other hand starts at “Excellent”, followed by “Good”, “Lightly Polluted”, “Moderately Polluted”, “Heavily Polluted”, and “Severely Polluted”.

As you can see, even though the number of levels between the U.S. and China readings are the same, the way each one of those levels described can give a different feeling. Moderately Polluted and Unhealthy sound like they wouldn’t even be on the same level as far as AQI. This can make it difficult to trust one scale versus another.

What should you trust then? Even though the descriptions may be a little misleading or contradictory to one another, you can still pay attention to the important PM2.5 levels as these readings tend to be closer to each other regardless of the rating system. PM 2.5 is important because these are particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers. Particles of this size can easily enter the blood stream through the lungs, which can cause serious health issues if levels are high. If PM2.5 is higher than 56 μg/m^3 this can be considered as unhealthy, so if you see this PM2.5 level or higher, regardless of which standard you can begin to protect yourself. You can use apps like the one below to help you monitor PM2.5 levels in your area. 

Air Purifiers 
Now that you know what the AQI and PM2.5 numbers mean, it’s time to take matters into our own hands and make sure that you have the tools to help protect you from pollutants. We spend quite amount of time at home and the office, so you should consider purchasing an air purifier for those places. Which air purifiers perform the best though? Surprisingly, it’s not just the more expensive or imported brands that can clean your air well. The Chinese electronics company Xiaomi, provides impressive results for being an air purifier for under 1,000 RMB. Research before you buy is very important and can help you save 4-5,000 RMB depending on the level of air purifier that you are looking to buy. 

While outside or in areas without air purifiers, you can also protect yourself by purchasing a mask. Just like air purifiers, not all masks are created equal. Pollution masks might be even more difficult to understand if the product works as advertised. There are many masks that you can buy easily in convenience stores in China. Some of them will even proudly be called PM2.5 masks. Unfortunately, majority of these masks can not be trusted. Masks that are designed to filter small particles like PM2.5 are usually labeled with N95, these masks can filter up to 95% of particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers. N95 masks usually have two over the head straps to ensure a tight seal to the face, without a tight seal, the effectiveness of the mask drops significantly. See the image above for an example. Surgical masks, are very cheap and are popular in Asia but they provide very little protection against pollutants.



Here at SAE Asia, we are doing what we can to reduce our carbon footprint. Since pollution and use of paper materials are a large part of the logisitics industry, we are creating different ways to improve conditions for our planet. If you would also like to help improve environmental conditions for our planet please click here to learn more about our RMB 300 Green Policy and how it can apply to your next move. 

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