Smog-busting solutions rated | China unlocked

By Duncan Gordon

The recent bout of heavy smog across China has got people thinking about how to deal with it.  The smog-coping methods range from the bizarre to the brilliant.  Here we rate some of the current trends.

  1. Surgical mask

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The good old-fashioned surgical mask is seen less and less on the streets of Beijing and other Chinese cities as more people have become aware of its pitfalls.  It’s less of an inconvenience to slip on than some of the heavy duty masks but it’s highly doubtable whether it actually protects you from harmful PM2.5 particles.

Smog-buster rating: 2/10

  1. Filter mask

filter mask.jpg

The filter mask is the next step up.  If you take your smog management a bit more seriously you’ll buy these by the box load from Taobao.  The science behind them ensures that the air you breathe is being filtered for the most harmful elements, allowing you to go about your day worry-free.  The downside is that they can become a bit smelly after just a few hours of breathing into them, and they only last a day or two.  No one wears them at home or in the office, so that leaves you unprotected while indoors (where there is still pollution!).

Smog-buster rating 7/10

  1. Air purifier


The solution to protecting yourself from indoor pollution is the air purifier.  These clever machines can suck in the harmful pollution particles in your bedroom or in an office, so you can have the luxury of not being slowly poisoned while you work or sleep.  What a time to be alive!  Xiaomi offer the best budget option, their machine currently sells for 900 RMB on Taobao and it does the trick for a small room.  They bumped the price up from 600 RMB after the recent bout of heavy smog.  Other, more powerful machines can set you back thousands of RMB.

Smog-buster rating 8/10

  1. Anti-smog tea


Perhaps the most ridiculous smog management solution to appear recently is anti-smog tea.  These concoctions of herbs and funguses claim to clean your lungs and remove harmful residue after enjoying a day out in the Beijing smog.  However, Liu Quanqing, president of the Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, warned against drinking these products as they use NON-EDIBLE ingredients and can cause long-term health problems.  Stick to the green tea maybe.

Smog-buster rating 0/10

  1. Travel abroad/down south

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With each fresh arrival of smog to northern Chinese cities, some local residents suggest taking a holiday abroad or to the fresh air of southern China for a week or two in order to escape the haze.  Sounds great if you’ve got the money but there are a few snags.  Smog can come and go in the blink of an eye.  So by the time you’re standing on the tarmac breathing in the jet engine fumes you could be looking up at clear blue skies wondering what exactly you’re doing boarding a 3000 RMB flight to Taiwan.  Another problem is that southern China and foreign countries probably also have smog.  The recent giant cloud of pollution across China reached Hong Kong, while Southeast Asia has its own problems with haze caused by agricultural fires.  Big cities around the world all suffer to some extent from air pollution.  Happy travels!

Smog-buster rating 5/10

  1. Fresh air canisters

This laughable product appeared on Chinese e-commerce platforms last year.  Canisters of fresh air, with names like Vitality Air, were being sold as a novel way of avoiding the smog while on the move.  The authorities said they were not legit.

Smog-buster rating 1/10

  1. Gas mask

gas mask.jpg

These masks may well be very effective at filtering the air and protecting people from PM2.5 particles.  But they just look ridiculous.  Surely it’s better to breathe in a little pollution than walk around with one of these on your face.  Or is fashion not that important?

Smog-buster rating 6/10


These are just some of the methods people in Beijing and beyond employ to protect themselves from air pollution.  Every week there seems to be a new product that claims a new method of protection from smog.

Our solution from these ratings is to wear a reputable brand of filter mask while out and about on smoggy days and invest in an air purifier for your home.  But at the end of the day it’s up to everyone to find their own smog-busting plan.

The good news is that average levels of smog in China are getting lower and lower each year and there are plenty of clear days to enjoy without needing to worry about a mask.




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