5 ways to respond to a polluted city: What type of Beijinger are you?

Living in a polluted city such as Beijing can be challenging. From calculating when you’ll need your mask, strategically planning outdoor runs, to smog making your sightseeing trip look more Short Path than Great Wall, sometimes it can feel difficult to accept the realities of living amidst pollution. However, one thing you don’t have to accept is the effect this can have on your health.

Great Wall disappearing into smog Great What? Where? The Wall disappearing into smog / AirVisual

We often kid ourselves that the air probably isn’t as bad as we’re told, or wear masks only when pollution is visibly bad, regardless of what actual outdoor AQI tells us. Of course, in a frequently polluted city occasionally dropping our guard on our health is only natural. There are simple actions, however, that we can take to reduce the negative impact.

AirVisual made some calculations using data from the US Embassy monitoring station in Beijing from 2015 to determine the average exposure we Beijingers experience, depending on different approaches we might take to the pollution.


  • In 2015, the average PM2.5 concentration in Beijing was 83µg/m3, 8 times over the WHO recommended amount (10µg/m3); the average from 2015 has been used in this analysis.

  • Indoor pollution is generally 20% less than outside, unless there is an air purifier which controls the levels to approximately 5µg/m3.

  • Masks are widely available, and filter out between 95% and 99% of PM2.5; however, the way they are fitted, and the quality of the filter, can have a large impact on efficiency. We have assumed masks to block 95% of PM2.5 (a well fitted N95 mask).

  • The average day of a Beijinger has been approximated to 2 hours outdoors, 8 hours in the office and 14 hours at home.

What kind of Beijinger are you?

We have focused on 5 types of people in Beijing: A-E. Type A is the “model Beijinger”, an air quality nerd (like ourselves) who has air purifiers both in their home and office, and wears a pollution mask when required. Type E is the “mindless Beijinger” who goes about life with little to no regard for pollution. Types B-D lie somewhere in between.

What type of Beijinger are you?

Beijinger Type A: Average Exposure = 5µg/m3 (AQI 21 = Good)
It’s almost like you don’t even live in Beijing! You’re breathing about the same air quality as a Parisian (AQI 22) or a rockstar in Los Angeles (AQI 18). Rock on!

Beijinger Type B: Average Exposure = 11µg/m3 (AQI 46 = Good)
Still in the green! You might not be the model Beijinger, but you’re pretty close. You know where you spend most of your time, so who cares how bad the pollution is outdoors.

Beijinger Type C: Average Exposure = 32µg/m3 (AQI 93 = Moderate )
You do your part against air pollution (sort of) so it’s not your fault you can’t change the air in your office! (Or maybe you can?) either way, you’re doing an “ok” job surviving Beijing. Room for improvement but not too shabby either.

Beijinger Type D: Average Exposure = 61µg/m3 (AQI 154 = Unhealthy)
Danger zone. Unless you wear your mask indoors, you’re soaking up all that Beijing smog - in the safety of your own home!

Beijinger Type E: Average Exposure = 67µg/m3 (AQI 157 = Unhealthy)
Yikes! We’re surprised you’re even reading this blog. Maybe it’s fate. Get an air purifier, get a mask - and stop letting your lungs act as a smog sponge, purifying the air for the rest of us!

What does this mean?

The type of Beijinger you want to be is up to you - what’s important is that you are aware how much of a difference your actions can really make!

So, is living in Beijing safe? This shows it is perfectly possible to breathe world-class, healthy air even in a polluted city, if you take the right precautions to protect yourself. Your air is in your hands!
Tell us what type of Beijinger you are, and share this article to find out which type your friends and family are!

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