Living Abroad

Beijing Air

April 17, 2017

My biggest concern about coming to China was the air quality in Beijing. I’m sure we’ve all read the scary articles. I’m here to give you the low-down on how to have healthy lungs throughout your study abroad year.


How bad is it really?

Let me start off by saying that the air quality is not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I thought I would be wearing face masks 24/7, but instead, I was greeted by blue skies and white clouds. That being said, there have been a few days when the AQI (air quality index) has surpassed 500 and the air was in hazardous levels.

In Beijing, there are some days when the air is really good. This is usually when there has been a big wind that blows the smog away. There are also some days when the air is at unhealthy levels, and people sensitive to pollution will need to wear masks. Then there are a few days when the air quality is very poor and it’s best not to go outside. These days usually happen in the winter when people are burning coal for heat.

bad air day                                                                                              good air day

IMG_2902-1                                   IMG_2770-1

How to protect yourself

Face masks

Face masks are the most effective way to protect your lungs when you’re outside. Fortunately, they are very easy to find in China, and the CSU program actually gives you your first two. When you buy face masks, make sure you by N95 ones. The most common and some of the cheapest are made by 3M. Don’t wear cloth or surgical masks because they will not protect you against the particulates.


Air filter

The program will also give you an air filter to keep in your room. If you’re very sensitive, and that one is not effective enough, you can also buy one at a store or on The air filter can be very helpful for keeping the air in your room clean

Stay inside

When the air is in hazardous levels, the best thing you can do is to spend as little time outside as possible. Because this usually happens in winter when its below freezing and the smog makes it dark and gloomy outside, you’ll probably not want to go out anyway.


Those are my tips for your respiratory health in Beijing. The smog is not ideal, but don’t let that deter you from coming to Beijing. It’s still one of the most beautiful cities I’ve lived in.


Very good air day at the National Museum


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