Air quality and pollution (PM2.5)Beijing

Beijing is a rapidly growing city, but growth has come at the price of air quality. This section breaks down the main types of pollution, describes what the risks are and how an air cleaner can help. Though this section refers to Beijing, the same risks exist in many other cities in China and worldwide. Pollution affects everyone, but the risks are most acute for children, whose lungs are still developing. References at the end of this page provide some perspective on this.

The good news is that the risks from air pollution are controllable and need not affect your health during your stay in China, provided the right precautions are taken.

Also see our FAQs page for answers to specific questions on health, air purifiers and so on.

China Air

Pollution Type

Should I be concerned?

Removed by Blueair? What else can I do?

microfine airborne pollutants such as smoke from diesel engines and coal burning represent a significant health risk in Beijing air and Shanghai air

Micro-fine airborne pollutants (PM2.5)

Less than 10 microns (PM10)
Less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5)
Mainly from diesel engines and coal burning.

Cigarette smoke

Yes: serious health risk to all

PM2.5 (particles of 2.5 microns and less) pose the greatest health risk. Implicated in respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Read more about PM2.5 pollutants

Yes, Blueair purifiers HEPA filters remove 99% plus of all microfine pollutants (PM2.5)

Avoid walking and cycling by roads with heavy traffic. Let kids get their exercise on the sports field rather than on the roads.

Quit smoking ... or if this is not possible, don't smoke indoors or around family members.

volatile organics such as formaldehyde from glues and furnishings health risk for China residents

Volatile organics and gases (VOCs)

From combustion engines and industrial sources (outdoors) and from glues, paints and polymers (indoors).

Yes: significant health risk to all

Sick building syndrome, common amongst workers exposed to newly renovated buildings.

Yes, Blueair purifiers fitted with Smokestop charcoal-containing filters remove formaldehyde, solvents, ammonia and ozone.

Ask us if your home or office has an odor problem or if you are worried about VOCs since we can recommend the correct filter choice for this situation.

pollen, mold spores and pet hairs, dander can cause asthma

Pollen and mold spores (from outdoors) and pet dander (indoors)

Yes: health risk to susceptible individuals

May cause asthmatic reaction (shortness of breath) in or make asthma worse in susceptible individuals.

Yes, Blueair purifiers remove pollen and mold spores

Air cleaners can play an important role. Asthma sufferers may also need other measures to control their symptoms and should get professional advice.

disease causing bacteria and viruses including swine flu, sars, H1N1 air health risk

Bacteria and viruses

Particles created when we sneeze.

Yes: significant health risk during epidemics

Flu and flu-like diseases (SARS, H1N1) are spread on airborne particles created by sneezing.

Yes, Blueair purifiers HEPA filters efficiently remove airborne disease particles

Many diseases are also spread by surfaces, so air filtration should be combined with good hygiene (hand washing, regular cleaning of surfaces in public areas).

dust particles in Beijing air and Shanghai air health risk
Large dust particles

The kind you find on your car in the morning. From construction sites locally and desert soils from further away.


A nuisance rather than a major health risk.

Yes, removed by the pre-filter in Blueair air purifiers.

Check door and window seals. Consider fitting double glazing.

Resources related to Beijing Air Quality

For the technically minded, the Air Quality Monitoring and Forecasting website provides data and forecasts for China for particulates (PM10) and also for gaseous pollutants (NO2, ozone). This website was set up jointly between Chinese and European universities.

Official Chinese Government website with PM2.5 pollution data: this site quotes API (air pollution index) data: this is calculated from a combination of particulate and gaseous readings. Note that this is a China-specific API scale: outside of China the particulate pollution levels corresponding to a reading of 100 on the China scale would be regarded as "highly polluted"! Nevertheless the site provides a useful indication of trends.

US Embassy PM2.5 AQI pollution index (Twitter Feed), hourly updates of air quality in downtown Beijing. Uses a different index (US EPA index) compared with the China Govt site.

The following three papers (available online by follwing the links) provide some perspective from the medical profession on the impact of air pollution on chlldren's health and development:

The Effect of Air Pollution on Lung Development from 10 to 18 Years of Age

Air Pollution Threatens the Health of Children in China

Ambient Air Pollution: Health Hazards to Children