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How to Live with China's Poor Air Quality

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China has long been the preferred hub for many global manufacturing operations. In the recent decades, this has meant more expats are relocating to China to help manage the industrial applications. While Chinese-made goods are exported around the world and have added great value to economies, the nation's environment has suffered immensely as a result. 

If you are moving to China, be prepared to encounter pollution. Low air quality is something everyone should take seriously, no matter your health or age. 

Causes of Smog

What causes this gray-blue haze to settle over cities? There are a few main factors that contribute to the problem.

As mentioned briefly above, factories and industrial operations are the main pollutants. The historical lack of regulations means that factories were built without regard to keeping the air clean. Even as regulations are introduced. enforcement agencies do not always administer punishments for noncompliance due to various reasons. 

Coal burning facilities, used to generate power, are still run throughout much of China. Burning this fossil fuel is one of the most harmful power generation methods in use, especially when protective equipment like air scrubbers are not installed. 

Image of pollution in China

Image by Ralf Vetterle from Pixabay 

Traffic is constantly congested throughout much of China. The rising middle class is beneficial to the economy, but taxing on the air quality since it means more families can afford cars. The government is attempting to roll out emissions standards to help mitigate this increase of passenger vehicles. Airplanes also add pollutants into the ozone. 

Finally, the climate does impact pollution. Temperature, elevation, wind currents, and humidity all mean that some days have thicker smog than others. 

Preserve Your Health

Many Chinese people wear masks in public. These masks have increased in popularity as residents deal with the risks of pollution and viral illnesses. Masks are widely available and are seen as a courtesy to help protect the general public. 

Image of a woman in China wearing a mask

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay 

Although the climate is mostly temperate in the main cities expats move to, it is still a good habit to check the weather daily. You may see that some days have more severe air quality warnings than others based on the weather, which is useful to know for making plans after work. 

If you have difficulty breathing due to a condition such as asthma, it is imperative that you talk with a doctor to learn how to manage your symptoms in a polluted city. Children and the elderly may be at an increased risk of suffering from breathing issues. 

Whenever possible, choose indoor activities when the smog is dense. For example, you may swap a jog in a park for a run on the treadmill or a fitness class.  

Image of a woman in China wearing a mask

Image by Hitesh Choudhary from Pixabay 

Purify the Air in Your Home

You can take a few steps in your own space to ensure the air you breathe inside is as clean as possible. 

Speak with your landlord about the ventilation system in your space. You may be able to check the air filters and have them replaced if necessary. 

A few small fans in the rooms throughout your accommodation can keep air moving and prevent allergens like mold.  

In addition to the natural beauty, certain house plants are said to help purify the air indoors. While not all of the plants you may find in your research are available in China, plants may be a soothing addition to your windowsills. 

Image of plants in an apartment in China

Photo by Tucker Good on Unsplash

How to Reduce Your Smog Footprint

With China's large and steadily growing population, it is crucial that the pollution problem is addressed for the future of the society. Whether your stay in China is long or short term, please do your part to reduce your personal contributions to the smog. These tips are a few places to start:

  1. Carpool or take public transportation whenever possible 
  2. Try to shift the time you travel to help reduce traffic at peak times
  3. Recycle what you can and shop mindfully to minimize the amount of trash you may generate 
  4. Educate yourself about the specific pollution problems in your city and share what you learn with your coworkers
  5. Investigate opportunities for green initiatives at your company's office in China

Image of a person holding a sprout in China

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash


Learning about life in China prior to your move? We have all the information you need. Get started by reading these other posts: 

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