The air pollution in China has become a very serious public health issue in recent years. Depending on which areas of China you intend on visiting, you may need to wear a breathing mask when outdoors.
This guide will help you choose the best protection for your breathing while in China.
1. Do I need a face mask / breathing mask in China?
Yes — for most tourists. Popular tourist destinations such as Beijing and Shanghai have notoriously bad air quality, especially in the winter. During “red alert” days, the air pollution will be so hazardous that schools will be closed.
Almost all the major cities in China have levels of air pollution that are significantly higher than most cities in North America and Europe. For Air Quality Index readings around the globe, check out aqicn.org. Remember these readings are current whereas averages will give you a better idea of what you will be inhaling during your travels.
2. What is PM10 and PM2.5 ?
PM10 refers to pollutants with average particle size of 10 micrometers. PM2.5 refers to pollutants with average particle size of 2.5 micrometers. The PM 2.5 particles are particularly dangerous and carcinogenic. They are also the most difficult to filter out with a mask.
3. Can I just wear a surgical mask?
Surgical masks are typically worn by locals in China when someone has a cold or flu. They are not effective at blocking out air pollutants.
4. What is the best kind of breathing mask for China?
Most China air pollution experts recommend wearing a mask with a NIOSH N95 rating, which is capable of filtering out about 90 – 95% of particles including PM10 and PM 2.5 particles. 3M is a trusted manufacturer of masks with official N95 ratings. Beware of cheap masks with non-certified N95 labels.
You can find 3M N95 masks at home and we recommend buying them in advance instead of wasting time searching for them in China.
Another important note is to make sure the fit of your mask is tight and sealed on all edges. A mask isn’t very effective if there is a huge leak!