I wasn't originally intending to do a whole post about the air quality in Beijing (it is bad) but I just read a news article that I thought worth sharing. Apparently the US embassy in Beijing monitors the air quality as they believe that the Chinese government always under-reports the problem. Last Friday, the day I left Beijing, the air quality index hit 500 and the embassy initially reported this as "crazy bad"! I'm not entirely sure which index this is measured against (each country seems to have their own way of measuring), but if we assume this is against the Chinese metric, then according to Wikipedia, severely polluted is anything above 300 which is described as: Healthy people will experience reduced endurance in activities. There may be strong irritations and symptoms and may trigger other illnesses. Elders and the sick should remain indoors and avoid exercise. Healthy individuals should avoid out door activities.
I don't have any photos from Friday, so I'm illustrating this post with one from Thursday when the pollution wasn't quite as bad. Here you can see the view from Tian'an Men looking across the road into the square. On a clear day you would be able to see other buildings through the smog in the background.
When we left on Friday morning and headed to the airport the pollution was so bad that you couldn't see from one side of the expressway (eight lanes in total) to the other, and we didn't even have to go through the centre of the city.
I haven't suffered from asthma for over a decade now but walking around central Beijing on Thursday (more on this in a later post) I could have done with an inhaler to help my lungs work better. I'm still coughing and finding it difficult to breath properly and I've been back in the UK for three days. Hopefully my trip hasn't reduced my life expectancy by more than a few days, but I'm surprised that anyone can live for any length of time in Beijing.