How bad is the air pollution in Asia?

Old Sep 10th, 2002, 09:37 PM
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How bad is the air pollution in Asia?

Planning a trip to China. Have been reading reports about air pollution in Beijing, Hong Kong and other big cities. NY Times today reported Hong Kong is having it really bad, aparently one can't see the famous skyline, just a "pink haze" on the bay. People recommend using air masks, it sounds kind of ridiculous but I want to be prepared. Any experiences? And where would I get one? Thanks.
Old Sep 10th, 2002, 10:06 PM
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Personally I find it's tolerable for a few days, then it starts to make me ill. I get sort of nauseous. Couldn't figure out what was wrong the first few times, but eventually noticed it happened after a couple of days in Taipei or Hong Kong. If you are walking around you are breathing in a lot of exhaust fumes in these cities. Now I try to inter-cut my city time with other places, e.g., a few days in Bangkok, then the islands, then a few days back in Bangkok.

I think that this sort of air pollution is stressful to your respiratory system and makes it more likely that you will succumb to a cold or sore throat.
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 03:18 AM
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We were in Beijing for a few days in late August. I was amazed by the pollution and smog. It irritated my contacts and caused me to sneeze and cough a little more than normal. But if you're only there for a few days its not too big of a deal. I think you can get air filter masks, if you want one at most US hardware stores. Enjoy!
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 05:30 AM
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Bangkok is the worst, it is just terrible. I use to live in Houston and LA, their pollution is nothing in comparision to Bangkok.

Your eyes water, your throat hurts, and you feel light headed. Look at the city from your airplane and it is unbelievable.
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 05:52 AM
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I agree that the pollution is bad - and it can be very bad. But fortunately, it doesn't bother everyone as much as it does the above posters.

We have loads of visitors from the US & Europe (we live in Shanghai, and travel quite a bit to the other big cities in Asia), and none of them have ever complained of any pollution-related problems, nor does it bother us or our friends very frequently. And MY relatives are from Boise, Idaho, which probably has some of the cleanest air in the US - so it's not as though they're coming from another polluted city and just don't notice it.

Hopefully there will be enough wonderful things to see that you'll be too distracted to notice the pollution!
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 06:05 AM
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We spent a week in Beijing last month and couldn't believe how thick the air was. It didn't bother us physically, but it was weird not seeing any blue sky!
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 06:23 AM
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I am tired of all these macho types telling us that we should visit these places anyway regardless of how terrible the air is!

The general response of "I can take it- I am tough, a little bad air is not going to affect me"-- That is the reason the air is so bad today, people think they are so tough and they are going to ignore it.

Even though you do not get sick that day from the air does not mean it will not effect you and others over the long run.

Face it, the air pollution in many asian cities is just plain terrible!
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 06:55 AM
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Unless you live in a plastic bubble you encounter things on a daily basis, no matter where you live, that may be detrimental to your health in the long run. Do you smoke, drink, eat red meat, eat junk food, fail to exercise, not get enough sleep, spend too much time in the sun, breath second hand smoke, etc, etc?? No one is being macho, it just doesn't bother some people as much as others. Obviously, Fran, it bothers you, so don't go there.
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 07:52 AM
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The pollution is very bad in Asia. Many of the cars and trucks use diesel which creates the worst pollution. You'll see even the local people holding their hand over their nose and mouth. China never seems to be clear but you always see a haze. I wouldn't worry about wearing masks though. Just hold your breath when you see a plume of smoke. Sounds silly but that's what I always did. I agree with others that you may feel a bit lightheaded and cough more. I would avoid going from May to September. Its unbearably hot and humid.
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 08:14 AM
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How bad is it? It depends on where you are going and when. I always visit Bangkok and Singapore in the winter (Nov, Dec, Jan) and find it not as bad as LA. Bejing is supposed to be worse, I can't comment, as I haven't been there. I was in Hong Kong in May, and it was fine.
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 09:19 AM
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Anna: What led you to feel so knowledgeable to assert that "China never seems to be clear" and "you always see a haze(in China)"?

My little advice: try to avoid using words such as "never", "always"; they don't make your statements any more convincing.
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 09:34 AM
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And more. Where exactly did you mean by avoid going from May to September? May is the most beautiful season to visit China's Souther-western area and September is the the best time for traveling in the north, Beijing included.

And since when hot and humid started being associated with pollution problems? By the same token, I guess one should never go see Antarctica; it would be the most "polluted" area on earth - simply too damn cold!
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 10:01 AM
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Speaking of big cities in China only, I've found that the pollution looks horrible but doesn't seem to actually physically bother me, at least not for a couple of weeks at a time. What's funny is every time I come home to LA, I start sneezing and coughing for the first few days. Makes me wonder if it's really more polluted here.
Old Sep 11th, 2002, 11:28 AM
Peter N-H
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The reports on Hong Kong are appearing in the paper precisely because the haze, drifting in from the mainland, is particularly bad, although the air quality has been deteriorating for a while now. Much of the industry over the border is funded by Hong Kong businessmen, however, because labour costs are lower and environmental restrictions are fewer (almost non-existent, in fact). You reap what you sow.

According to the World Watch Institute of Chicago, measurements of total suspended particulates put nine Chinese cities in the world top ten for air pollution, but that doesn't include Beijing, dreadful as it is there, and certainly not Hong Kong.

The tenth city, by the way (at no.7) was also in Asia--India's Rajkot.

But bad as it is, the pollution is no reason to avoid Asia (rather a large area, some of which has very little pollution, including some cities--Singapore, for instance), and even in the bigger cities the levels fluctuate, and may cause no more than a runny nose and sore eyes for a day or two, unless you are particularly sensitive.

These remarks are not intended to be 'macho', but are simply fact, and certainly more should be done to tackle the horrendous pollution. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government is promoting car manufacture because it creates jobs, and competition is driving down prices so that more urban residents can afford a vehicle than ever before. The government prefers encouraging stability (a reduced threat to its own existence) by increasing employment and by providing goodies for the newly wealthy to restricting consumption and cleaning up. Some might argue both government and individuals are copying Americans. Let anyone who posted above and who doesn't run a car stand up and be counted, and then cast the first stone.

Peter N-H
Old Sep 12th, 2002, 07:16 PM
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Peter, thank you. I've been planning a trip to China for a few months now and have come to look forward to your notes. I do admit at times, they are a bit like the professor who knows he knows his stuff. But I'm the type that mines for gold anywhere I go, and your messages are full of gold. Now to China, I would never not go on my trip because of air pollution, I grew up in LA and know what that's like. I live in Miami now with wonderful clean air so when I read some of the reports, I get a bit concerned. I can see by everyone's commnents that it's a little of everything...wonderful how we all experience things so differently. You came just in time before the fist fight broke out with the voice of reason, and I appreciate it. I'm gonna look up the World Watch Institute, just for the heck of it, then go on my trip and G*d willing, have a great time. Thanks.
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