How to handle bad air days: A refresher

Today’s official PM2.5 (airborne particulates that cause respiratory disease) reading was “Very Unhealthy” as reported by the US Consulate.  The level was 150 micrograms/m3 (>35 is considered unhealthy by the US EPA).  Here’s a quick refresher on how to effectively handle bad air days:

1. Close the windows and doors as much as possible. Most of our particulate pollution comes from the outside.  Advise co-workers to do this at work as well (Chinese workplaces often have the windows open).

2. Use your air particulate filters. You paid for them, so turn them on!  Generally turn them on high for 30-60 min after ventilating to the outdoors, then you can turn them lower.  Avoid the lowest setting – we find these rarely move air enough to be effective.

3. Avoid vigorous exercise outside until things get better. If you must, put on N95-rated masks made by 3M, which are inexpensive and effective.  (30rmb each or 4 for 100rmb – contact us)  Specialty masks are also available like Totobobo and Respro (carried by World Health Store) are also good.  Avoid peak pollution times, which tend to be in the morning (8-10am) and late at night (10pm-1am).

4. Check air quality websites to monitor the situation. US Consulate’s hourly Shanghai PM2.5 readings here; Shanghai’s Environmental Monitoring Center here; and the AMFIC site (allows forecasting a day ahead) here.  Learn about how to interpret the numbers and why these sites are different in our earlier post here.

5. Let your friends, neighbors, and school administrators know – we can’t control what’s outside, but we can control our indoor environment.  Fortunately, we spend upwards of 90% of our time indoors, so address home, school, and office the same way.

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