When we announced to friends and family that we were moving to Beijing, many gave us horrified looks. Many people openly expressed that they thought we were crazy! Bringing 3 kids to Beijing...THE capital of the world with the worst air pollution reputation? But here we are.
Since the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese government has tried to up its game when it came to air pollution and the new Air Pollution Control Law took effect on the 1st of January 2016.
But how bad is it and what's the impact on our everyday life?
The Air Quality Index helps you estimate the impact on your health of the level of the so-called PM 2.5 particulates. It indicates the PM 2.5 concentration in the air (Micrograms per cubic meter).
Here it is:
Good: 0 to 50
Moderate: 51 to 100
Unhealthy for sensitive groups: 101 to 150
Unhealthy: 151 to 200
Very unhealthy: 201 to 300
Hazardous: 301 to 500
And how do we work around these numbers as a family: We quickly realised that we needed to have simple rules for when to wear masks and when to avoid going outside. We check the app "BeijingAir" every morning and the system we're currently using is:
Above 100; you have to wear a mask
Above 150; If on the weekend, we cannot force the kids to go outside
Above 200; better to stay inside
Many families are much less strict about masks so we might need to revise our rules at some stage
I would lie if I said that we can always feel when the air is bad! Frankly there are days where we only know thanks to the app. Also because the sun can easily shine and the sky be blue although the air quality is bad!
As for the school, the Western Academy of Beijing has an excellent air quality policy and is constantly monitoring the air, purifying and limiting the outside air that comes into the building. If I've understood correctly, the school will remain closed if there are 3 consecutive days of an AQI of 200 or above (this happened in December 2015 during the first ever "red alert" in Beijing). To Samuel's great disappointment, this does not mean that there is no teaching. Classes take place online if the school premises are closed :-)
Yes, we need to take the air quality into consideration every day but I would not say that it defines our days and our stay here in Beijing.