Air Quality in China: The Myth, The Legend (The Actual Facts)

Gretchen Trupp
June 26, 2015
masks on a high AQI day

Before I even came to Beijing, I was overwhelmed by the amount of negative press about the air quality. Both people from China and the US told me it was imperative that I have a very strong mask and be prepared for the worst, lest I return with lung problems. When I got here though, for the first week and a half the air and sky were both clear and wonderful. So far, there have only been 2 days out of the past 3 weeks where I have needed to wear a mask. Granted, I'm here on a summer program, where the weather is generally nicer as a whole, but so far Beijing's air quality isn't holding up to its monstorous reputation. 

Below are two pictures of the Beijing sky a few days apart, one on a low AQI day and one on a high AQI day. Even though these are less than a week apart, there is a stark contrast in the quality of the air. In the summer, it's more common to have lower AQI days, since there's more precipitation and people aren't burning as much energy for heat. In the winter, the AQI tends to reach more dangerous levels. 

In order to make sure I stay safe while being around a lot of pollution, something I had to get familiar with is a handy app called Airpocalypse, which measures the AQI(Air Quality Index) of major cities in China. Anything below 200 is fine for human lungs, but above that is when it starts to get hazardous to one's health-- this is where a good face mask comes in handy. N95 or N100 masks are considered really reliable, and IES has masks on-site for the students, or you can bring your own(like me and some other students did). Before coming here, I never really took into account the AQI for where I lived, despite being only a few hours away from LA, one of America's most polluted cities whose AQI is on the rise. While I am making sure to stay safe and healthy, it's important to take into account that the rumors about air quality (at least in the summer) do not hold as much weight as some people would have you believe. 


Gretchen Trupp

<p>Hi, I&#39;m Gretchen, and I&#39;m currently a prospective Languages and Linguistics Major at Swarthmore College, PA. I was born in Rota Spain, and have grown up in various places around the states (notably Hawai&#39;i), and am very excited to be participating in the Beijing Summer Language Intensive program! I&#39;m really into all different types of art, and exploring that interest through all sorts of avenues (this blog will be one of them). On this trip I hope to gain not only language skills, but innumerable friends and experiences that last a lifetime. Join the adventures of an unapologetically queer, short (but not tiny) college student navigating one of the biggest cities in the world!</p>

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