China can be an exciting country for expats, with astounding historical sites to enjoy and lively modern cities in which to live. However, many Chinese cities also suffer from poor air quality, which is why many pictures taken in more built-up areas show residents walking the streets wearing face masks.
Here’s a quick overview of everything you need to know as an expat dealing with China’s smog.
What Does Smog Contain?
Smog is made up of several compounds, including:
- Ground Ozone (O3)
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
- Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
- Carbon Monoxide(CO)
- Particulate Matter (PM 2.5 and PM 10)
All of these substances can be harmful, but PM2.5 and Ozone (O3) will have the biggest impact on your health. PM2.5 comes from combustion, such as coal burning, petrol burning in cars, power plants, and industrial sites, while ground ozone forms when Nitrous oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react to sunlight.
Do You Need to Wear a Mask?
To know whether you need to wear a mask, you first need to check the air quality index for the city you’re in. This can vary, so checking the index should become like checking the weather.
You’ll generally not need a mask if air quality is ranked below 100, though anyone with current respiratory conditions should wear one anyway. Severe problems usually occur once the air quality index reaches around 150, the level at which air is classified as unhealthy. Ratings of between 300 and 500 are often seen in some parts of the country, and they certainly demand the use of a mask.
How Should You Pick Your Mask?
Not all masks are created equal, so make sure that yours:
- Is rated by the NIOSH or EU FFP at N99.
- Has a carbon filter to protect against Ozone and S02.
- Fits securely around your face.
- Allows you to breathe without difficulty.
You should also make sure that filters are changed regularly since they can become clogged with dust and pollutants.
How Can You Protect Your Children?
Your children’s respiratory systems will still be developing, so pollutants will be more harmful. Make sure they wear a child-sized mask when outdoors. When looking at schools, ensure that all classrooms are sealed, indoor playgrounds are available, and air quality levels are constantly measured.