Beijing - Post Report Question and Answers

What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good to moderate and getting better. If you have lung issues or asthma it might bother you but there are really only a handful of days each month that now see AQI in 150s. - Nov 2020

Another major problem with living in China. It can be terrible. However, it is not nearly as bad as it used to be, on most days. There are plenty of very nice AQI days. It can be hard to make weekend plans since the air quality can ruin any outdoor plans. Also note the dry air in the winter can be tough on your skin. - Jul 2020

Ranges from good to horrible. Yes, you have to plan for air - pack monitors, and filters. and air masks... - May 2020

Has gotten better in the past 2 years here in Beijing. AQI of 500 are not common, like they used to be. The government has moved some factories out of Beijing and during Communist party events or large visits, it's my understanding they forbid any kind of construction to improve the air quality. As a whole the air quality has been much better than we expected. - Nov 2019

The pollution here is not as bad as we expected. From what we have heard the Chinese government is really cracking down on the big polluters. - Oct 2017

When it's bad, it's BAD. I got here this past summer and we had, largely, a pretty good summer. There lots of crystal-clear days. More commonly, the AQI hovers between 100-200, which you adjust to. Around 250, which probably happens once a week or so, most foreigners will start to wear masks, and the air has taken on a thick, acrid quality. Every couple of weeks, the AQI will push towards 350-400, and most people will lock themselves up in their houses by then. We just had a headlines-making horrendous pollution episode where the AQI hit nearly 900 in some parts of the city, and it felt like the world was ending. When it's that bad, no mask is helping you, it's incredibly depressing, and makes you question whether being here could possibly be worth it. - Dec 2015

Very unhealthy. Air quality must be considered before making any plans (as you typically consider the weather). The AQI is very unpredictable and can change drastically in a few hours. - Apr 2015

It ranges from unhealthy to very, very, very unhealthy. Our house has a lot of air filters and our kids' school has a state-of-the-art filtration system and domes that they can play outside in when the air is bad. True "good" air quality days are rare. My family has done well here, but I would be cautious about seeking this assignment if you have family members with asthma or breathing issues. - Jul 2014

Completely toxic. Greenpeace recently did a study that found it full of lead, arsenic and heavy metals. Before I came here I was told, "some days you can't go outside," but honestly, it's a big deal any time the air quality is good enough actually to be outside (and not just quickly commute to where you need to be.) Even on those "blue sky days" pollutions levels are so high it'd warrant a state of emergency in the U.S. - Jun 2013

"Crazy bad" (search the internet for that). Sixty percent of days in Beijing have equal or worse air than the two most polluted cities in the U.S. have on their worst days (10% of the time). Frequently the air is "hazardous" according to the U.S. EPA air quality scale. - Aug 2011

The air quality is rediculously unhealthy - Apr 2011

It's actually all of these. Occasionally the air is clear and you can see the mountains. The clearest day here is like a pretty bad air day in Seattle. Usually the air quality (according to the US embassy) ranges from unhealthy to very unhealthy. Sometimes it gets off-the-charts hazardous. The embassy described it as "Crazy Bad" when this happened just before Thanksgiving, which just about sums it up. Most of the time the air quality isn't very good, so you don't want to spend a lot of time outside. To give you an idea of how bad it is when it's really bad, you'll blow your nose after an hour outside and it comes out black. There is nothing anywhere in the US or really developed Western countries that could even so much as give you a point of reference for how bad the air quality can get here. So, don't come here if your lungs are sensitive or you have asthma. On bad days, I lock myself in my bedroom with my Ionic Pro Turbo and I have to clean it every day (normally you have to clean it once a month). - Jan 2011

The air is AWFUL. Let me rephrase that: the air is disgusting, frightening, and sickening. I've never before lived in a place where I so feared for the health of my kids. Truly, that is the one reason I can't wait to get out of here. We regularly have days that are in the "dangerous" zone, when you aren't supposed to go outside. But of course, we do go outside, because you have to. - Apr 2010

Air quality in Beijing is appalling and many families leave because of it. There are many days in the year where the AQI is very high. Wikipedia has a good guide to AQI in Mainland China. Beijing rarely falls under 100 and is often over 400 (when we do not allow students to go outside). - Jan 2010

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