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China Pollution and my Lungs in Beijing, part 2 – the Follow-up

November 10th, 2008 · 3 Comments

So back in June when I was preparing for my 3 month trip to Beijing, I was utterly worried about the pollution in the city and what long-term effects it would have on my lungs (see China Pollution and my Lungs in Beijing). I packed four items to help out and now that I’m back in the States, the review is in on both the pollution and what helped battle it.

Beijing’s pollution was a topic that couldn’t be ignored seeing how the media inundated us with stories about the situation leading up to the Olympics. There was one story about special masks that the USA team had engineered and would be wearing right up until the players would compete in Olympic matches or another story about how no world records would be broken at outdoor events due to the pollution. It was worrisome. I blogged about it and what I was going to do to battle it. In my own posting I rattled off Kevin Holden Platt for National Geographic News stating that, “A World Health Organization (WHO) report estimates that diseases triggered by indoor and outdoor air pollution kill 656,000 Chinese citizens each year.” Yes, this is unnerving but what does it mean to the Beijing traveler?

Looking back, I can say that I got caught up in the over-dramatization of the media. Some may say that the air was indeed better while I was there and part of the big China-Olympic façade I encountered, but I disagree. There were days when I looked out my window from the tenth floor and couldn’t see past a block beyond my building due to the white mass of smog. In fact, the first time I rode on the highway by the Bird’s Nest, I couldn’t even see the stadium due to poor visibility. Blue skies were definitely enjoyed when they came around and most people on the trip swore that the Chinese had prompted clearer skies by inducing rain, which I’m not here to prove or disprove. Pollution is a reality there, but I didn’t experience any negative physical effects during my stay like I thought I would. Granted, I didn’t do any demanding physical activity outdoors. All in all, most of my worries sized up to be extra space taken in my luggage. So what did I pack to protect my lungs from Beijing’s pollution and were they in fact useful?

In my bags, I packed four items to help out my lungs:

  1. A prescribed inhaler
  2. POD – personal oxygen device
  3. Doctor’s masks
  4. Bandanas

And the final report…drum roll…


1.  A prescribed inhaler – for a non-asthmatic person, NOT NEEDED

The inhaler was prescribed by my internal medicine doctor at my request.It was an Albuterol inhaler and was to be used in the instance of wheezing.I’ve never has asthmatic problems in my life and found that I didn’t wheeze while over there.When I was a little short of breath, I blamed being out of shape over the pollution.So if you’re not asthmatic, then this isn’t needed.For me, it made me re-evaluate my exercise routine, or lack thereof.

portable-oxygen | personal oxygen device

2. POD—personal oxygen device, FAVORITE and USED

This product offers recreational use of pure oxygen to boost energy, overcome hangovers or just offer a breath of fresh air.I found it to be the most practical and stylish solution to my pollution fears (really, I’m trying to picture myself sporting a doctor’s mask without rolling my eyes!).I used the POD on particularly smoggy days as a treat to my lungs and on some mornings after drinking too much.It doesn’t have the same umph as an inhaler hits your lungs with, but more of a soothing “ahhh” needed and much welcomed.It’s a perfect hybrid of wanting the comfort and effects of fresh air while not looking like a douche bag.

face-mask-surgical 3.  Doctor’s masks – WASTE OF MONEY

The doctor’s masks went unworn the entire trip and ended up being a waste of money.I  was expecting to see locals sporting them similar as I saw in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Min City, but I didn’t.That aside, they scream fashion-victim.I do treasure my lungs over physical appearance, but this was over-the-top and unneeded.Don’t let your fears overtake your sense of practicality like I did.


Similar to the doctor’s masks, this measure went overboard, and also could get one dubbed a fashion victim.While I did use a bandana around my neck when I visited The Great Wall or trekking around the Summer Palace in scorching heat and humidity, I never used any of my bandanas around my face to prevent debris from getting inhaled.

In conclusion…

So there you have it. I went overboard with my precautions, packed fashion-doomed doctor’s masks and found that the pollution in Beijing isn’t nearly as bad as the media made it out to be. Of course, proceed with caution, especially if you’re asthmatic or visiting more of the industrial cities, but don’t get too worked up.

Tags: Beijing

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 China Pollution and my Lungs in Beijing « Helen’s Travel Corner // Nov 10, 2008 at 3:39 am

    […] June 25, 2008 · 8 Comments ** For the follow-up to this post after my trip to Beijing, please read more here. […]

  • 2 North Sulawesi // Nov 10, 2008 at 7:39 am

    great info!!anyway, care 2 xchange link with my North Sulawesi blog? I’ve added ur link in my blog.Thx

  • 3 John Dalton // Dec 24, 2011 at 9:16 am

    I read your segment on face “Doctor’s Masks” which you determined to be a waste of money.

    Particulate air pollution in Beijing is high, especially in areas surrounding major car routes. For example, when a car stops, fine metal dust is created from the breaks of that car. A simple surgical mask is cheap and prevents the inhalation of those particulates.

    The Great Wall or Summer Palace aren’t anywhere near Chaoyang and the difference in air quality between those places is meaningful.

    In conclusion, you shouldn’t publish things like this because your ideas may effect people who don’t know any better.

    In the future, study harder!

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