In the Dirtiest Cities, Air Pollution Forces Life Changes – The New York Times23 Dicembre 2015
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nytimes.com – In the Dirtiest Cities, Air Pollution Forces Life Changes – By SONA PATEL
Thick layers of toxic smog often blanket the skies in Hanoi, limiting visibility to less than a mile away. When the pollution gets really bad in Beijing, children are kept home from school or restricted to classrooms during recess. In Shanghai, a mother says she struggles to get her child to wear a protective mask.
New York Times readers living in the most polluted cities in the world shared with us how they manage in the face of toxic smog. What follows is a selection of the more than 100 responses received. They have been edited and condensed.
Some readers said they checked air pollution levels more than the weather, while others said they were lucky to be able to afford costly air purifiers for their homes.
What is your experience with air pollution? We invite you to share your experience in the comments. Please include where you live.
Keeping Children Inside
Lina Farrow, 37, in Suzhou, China.
Children ages 5 years and 8 months
All of our activities are planned around the air pollution levels. Checking the pollution levels every morning is routine and that determines what we do and how we do it, especially during the weekends.
I have young children and it is difficult to explain why we can’t go out so they can ride their scooters or simply kick a football in the park. On polluted days when it is high but not horrendous, we have to take the kids to the play areas in the malls, rather than go outdoors.
Terri Schwartzbeck, 41, in Beijing.
Children ages 6 and 10
We are more focused on taking advantage of a “good air day,” i.e. telling the kids to go outside and play and exercising outdoors, because staying inside when the air is bad is a fact of life.
All international schools have restrictions if the Air Quality Index reaches a certain level, meaning that children must play indoors at recess and lunch. It’s signaled by two bells instead of one. The kids all know to listen for those two bells.
Wu Yifan, 22, in Nanjing, China.
I have been the victim of allergic rhinitis since I moved from the suburbs to the city. When the smog appears, my nose feels very bad. I can’t even breathe. I also feel very depressed when the city is engulfed with smog.
I haven’t made any changes to my daily routine. However, as an illustrator, I make art hoping that people will constantly pay attention to the problem instead of just complaining, trying to forget about it, and pretending that it doesn’t exist.
Panachayil Jacob Varughese, 33, in Trivandrum, India.
We purchased an air purifier and have been using it for the past few months, albeit only in the bedroom. We are not purchasing more air filters as they are pretty pricey, and we may have to think twice before putting our money there.
We have also purchased a special health insurance package for the whole family. It gives us peace of mind in case we develop severe health problems.
Surabhi Srivastava, 26, in New Delhi.
I now use sort of a scarf every day to cover my nose and mouth, but it has more psychological benefits than actual practical benefits in terms of protecting myself from the harmful air I breathe. I would like to buy a mask and/or an air purifier, but they are quite expensive, and while they might be useful in the short term, air pollution in New Delhi is a structural problem that requires a more comprehensive long-term solution.
Struggling to Breathe
Presly Mellor in Suzhou, China.
I’m constantly checking the air quality and deciding whether or not it’s worth going outside that day.
If I have to go to work, I bite the bullet and walk as fast as I can so I get to my work with the air purifiers.
Making a Move
Lise Wagnac in Beijing.
I will be leaving Beijing soon to move to Ningbo, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, because of my health. I have been living in Beijing for the past six months, and from the first week I moved here, I’ve felt the effects. I’ve had chronic chest pain and a hard time breathing on a daily basis. I never realized the impact of pollution before moving to Beijing.
Sun Tian, 14, in Beijing.
Translated from Chinese:
About 30 of us pooled together the money to buy the air purifier in our classroom. We have two.
On days when the smog is bad, we avoid going outside. We make sure the windows are sealed shut. If I see an open window or door in the hallway, I try to close it. But some windows are too high up for me to reach.
Sakshi Talwar, 31, in New Delhi.
Two years ago I was able to bike around in the early mornings, but that’s not possible now. It feels like inhaling smoke.