There are some pretty scary reports and pictures of the pollution in Beijing. Just take a look at this one taken by The World by Road Expedition when the crew was travelling through China:
Who could tell that an entire city lies ahead in this picture? The World by Crew amply commented on this photo: The city skyline is out there somewhere.
ESPN reporter Bob Holtzman reported in his latest “Outside the Lines” on Beijing report that “had the Olympics been held last August, the air quality in Beijing would have been in violation of the World Health Organization standard every single day.” (There’s a great video accompanying his article.) And even scarier are the health risks that such polluted air causes for the Chinese. Kevin Holden Platt for National Geographic News stated that, “A World Health Organization (WHO) report estimates that diseases triggered by indoor and outdoor air pollution kill 656,000 Chinese citizens each year.” Indeed Olympic athletes have a lot to worry about when it comes to performance under such unnerving air quality.
As a person who will be more than traveling in Beijing this summer for the Olympics, but living there for 3 months, these statistics are enough to send me running back to my Tennessee hills. I genuinely care about my non-smoker lungs and prefer to preserve them from turning out like I’ve been smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day for my entire life.
(thank me later for posting an illustration instead of an actual picture)
So what precautions am I taking to protect my valuable breathing machines? I have four different “tools” to aid my lungs against the pollution in China:
My very good-looking internal medicine doctor prescribed an Albuterol inhaler after visiting him for my traveler’s doctor appointment. I’ve never had any asthma problems in my life, but I’ll have this in case I have problems breathing indicated by wheezing. The inhaler won’t actually help filter any pollution in the air since it only opens up the lungs; it will only aid in my breathing.
While this doesn’t have any medical claims, it will offer a fresh breath of air comprised of 95% oxygen and 5% nitrogen. It’s portable, lightweight and easy to use. I can already picture days where I’m going to forget what clean air means and this little thing will provide some comfort by supplying doses of pure air. Unfortunately, this also won’t filter pollution and will only offer fresh air for my poor lungs.
3. Doctor’s masks
This highly attractive look is compliments of a doctor’s surgical mask which will provide my best defense for filtering Beijing’s polluted air. It’s not a silver-bullet answer by any means, but it will help filter the air from the larger floating particles (like debris from construction). The box does claim they’re proven effective in reducing the spread of germs and bacteria and also help provide relief from common household dust, ragweed pollen and yard dusts….extremely comforting to know!
One disappointing Google search revealed from Time Asia that:
MYTH: A surgical mask can screen out air pollution.
FACT: Absolutely untrue. Surgical masks can’t filter out the relatively tiny particles and gases like nitrogen dioxide that cause the most damage to your body. Gas masks with fine air filters can offer some protection, but the filters need to be changed often and the masks are uncomfortable, especially in warm weather.
ANOTHER FACT: Things aren’t looking good for my lungs!
I have been known to sport a bandana to help offset sweat while in S.E. Asia (see my About page picture); however, if I use this to sheild my face in China, it will offer more psychological comfort more than anything else. I’m not ashamed to admit, I’ll take a placibo pill in the form of a bandana if it will ease my mind a little…at least I’ll have my POD and inhaler in case I do need help breathing!
After putting each of these to the test, I’ll let you know how well they worked. Although it looks like there’s not much I can do to protect my lungs while over there. Until then, I’m soaking up as much clean O2 as I can hear in Cambridge!
Bonus for reading my entire posting:
Check out this really interesting flash animation with startling facts on China’s pollution from E-Ranlai Magazine.