China air pollution face mask

Air pollution is so serious that residents often must wear face masks.
TonyV3112 /

The sun is out and it looks like a perfect day for a picnic.  You pack a spread of cold cuts, fruit and some sparkling water for the road.  You set out a blanket with your significant other, but suddenly the wind changes direction and in rolls lung-clogging smog.  You can scarcely catch your breath.  You know the picnic is over before it even got started.  You have to rush inside to escape the noxious air.

If you live in China, that may be the case.  Living in the United States, it’s not something you normally need to worry about.  Los Angeles is probably one of the smoggiest cities in the U.S.  Yet, most of the states are known for fresh air and wide open spaces.  Suddenly living in a major city can be bad for your health, even if you don’t smoke.

Many of the cities in northern China have been on red alert for serious air pollution recently.  Some cities include Changchun and Harbin.  On a scale of one through four, where four is the worst, these cities have been at level four for three days in a row.

Despite being on holiday, for Golden Week, many people were forced to wear face masks just to go outside.  The sky literally changed from blue to greyish yellow very quickly.  Unfortunately, this is not out of the ordinary.

The smog can get so thick that it disrupts travel and noticeably cuts visibility.  According to a local news channel, the Xinhuanet News, “the density of PM 2.5 — airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter, exceeded 500 micrograms per cubic meter on Monday morning.”

The general population will actually be told when they can and cannot drive, in order to eliminate some of the pollution.  Depending on whether your license plate is even or odd, you may not be allowed to operate a vehicle.

On days when the smog is at its worst, about one third of government cars will be restricted from driving as well.  In order to handle the change, more public transportation will be in service.  In an effort to address safety, all schools will be closed.

It feels sad that it has come to this, and China is not the only place where smog levels have gone off the charts.  Many of the major cities in India such as Mumbai and New Delhi have experienced similar epidemics.

It kind of makes you wonder why we are allowed to continue producing gasoline-powered cars anymore.  Perhaps in the future, all cars will either be electric or at least hybrid.