08 December 2013

Hazardous Pollution in Shanghai

For weeks, my pollution app has been telling me that the pollution levels have been higher in Shanghai than in Beijing. Apparently that is not the usual story.

Beijing Vs. Shanghai Pollution Levels November 2013 photo BeijingVsShanghai_zps19c09d02.jpg

To make matters worse, people downstairs have been smoking in the hotel and it gets into our room despite "the sponges" that the hotel employees tell us filter it out. We keep getting paint smells, too. I complained to HULT housing and was condescendingly told that "lots of people smoke in China" and if I didn't like the bad air, I should consider moving to a different country. I was this close to saying, "A lot of people eat nuts on this planet, and my sister is allergic, should she move away from Earth?" I feel like I have the right to live in a healthy environment despite other people's choices.

Daaaaa. Anyway, I was wearing this mask outside, and with my sunglasses, I felt like the invisible man:

The Invisible Shanghai Expat photo 2013-11-19140103_zpsc5b0fbab.jpg

I celebrated when the pollution levels went below Beijing's levels. I've been sick on and off, and a lot of people have told me it must be the air. When a friend told me about a DIY air filter that some people in Beijing came up with and I saw the numbers, I immediately wanted one. It is just as effective as really expensive filters, but much cheaper, at about 30 USD. Even though Michael couldn't see how to order using an American credit card, I did a lot of copying and pasting between taobao.com and Google Translate, and I figured it out. The filter arrived a couple of days later.

DIY Filter photo 2013-11-26110031_zpse45f8b4b.jpg

And then the levels started climbing again, going even higher than before.

Hazardous Air in Shanghai photo 2013-12-02082901_zps1ca7a004.png

And it didn't really take an app to tell us that; just one glance out the window did the job.

Shanghai View with Polluted Air photo 2013-12-05102625_zpsc199f280.jpg

And then the pollution got so bad that the numbers beat records:

This is past "hazardous" pollution levels. Shanghai, eek! photo 2013-12-06084628_zps14ca7d49.png

Apparently the pollution got up around 500. I could look straight at the sun, no trouble. There was clearly smog inside lobbies and the underground metros. People were feeling sick.

Worst Day of Pollution in Shanghai--December 6th, 2013 photo 2013-12-06091355_zps6172e5d8.jpg

Here it is again with a picture of our view on a good day:

Our View of Shanghai on a Good Day and on a Bad Day photo ShanghaiPollution_zps0156264e.jpg

My weather app amused me with its description of the pollution as a "haze" or "fog."

 photo HazyFog_zpsfb4e6500.jpg

We all started thinking about getting gas masks, though there were still plenty of locals who didn't care to wear masks at all.

Gas masks? photo 2013-12-06114309_zps37ab42a2.jpg

But for now, we've been wearing these hardcore N95 masks that are supposed to filter out the 2.5 particles, whatever that means:

What we look like now photo 2013-12-08113903_zpsb632c94d.jpg

And this is what our DIY air filter currently looks like:

Here's our DIY Smart Air Filter photo 2013-12-09135129_zpse887dd7d.jpg

I'm sure glad that gunk is not in my lungs. I already ordered a replacement filter and another set for the kitchen (and I even made a video to help guide other expats through ordering their own air filter). Still, I hope that the pollution calms down. I don't know how people can live here permanently with this air. Blech.

Besides China being the country that burns the most coal on the planet, apparently one major problem right now is that farmers are burning everything after the harvest, and though the government has asked them to stop, they haven't. Wow, what a surprise--Chinese people ignoring rules that help everyone?!?

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