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【China Daily】Living in a Haze

March 19, 2014      Author: Liu Zhihua

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.

As for air purifiers, sales increase in pace with growing awareness of PM2.5, but consumers may become confused on how to choose among so many brands and types, especially when there is no official criteria and testing method on an air purifier's ability to remove PM2.5 in the air, according to Wu Jixiang, an expert with Shanghai Jiaotong University.

A non-governmental consumer-rights protection organization in Shanghai reported in 2013 that almost all the air purifiers it tested exaggerated their ability to remove PM2.5, Wu adds.

Wu suggests customers seek advice from trustworthy professionals when choosing an air purifier, or use a hand-held PM2.5 measuring device to measure the efficiency of the machine. It is also important to follow the instruction of the user's guide to make good use of an air purifier, Wu adds.

Xu Qiong, the Beijing resident, says depending on masks and air purifiers to protect against air pollution are not long-term solutions. Instead, the government should take efficient action to clean the air as soon as possible.






Source: the China Daily