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Air pollution in Shanghai

Smog in China

If you live in Shanghai you know that this is not one of the healthiest cities in the world to live in. Not only does work go on 24/7 here (well, at least when you run your own business), but also the air quality is quite bad. It’s actually so bad that it’s very likely that unitedstyles will be the last company that I set up in China, and that I will eventually move somewhere else. I am sure I will be in China regularly for my investments and other business related issues, but at least I want my family out of here.

Nobody really knows how bad the pollution is, because the government data seems to be “adjusted” and data for PM2.5 (the smallest, most dangerous, particles) are not released. For sure downtown it’s much worse than out in the suburbs where I live and where unitedstyles has its office. But also there it can’t be too good. I hardly ever run outside where I live, for example, because I feel the air does more harm than sports does good. And if I do, like during the Shanghai marathon, I normally feel it in my throat for several days after the run.

Today Shanghaiist has an overview of how dangerous it is to live in Shanghai. Although they play down the risks a bit (by for example saying that the city may be gradually killing you, but that Beijing is worse), the article confirms that living here is far from healthy. It’s a pity there is not more data available, but I am sure that is something that will change soon: the government will install PM2.5 measuring devices this year, and because they may not be trustworthy, likely private organizations may also start measuring this.

So, should I move to Hong Kong then? No, probably not. It seems pollution there is not much better, mainly because of all the smog coming from Guangdong province. The School of Public Health publishes an index showing the effects of the air pollution there (thanks for the link Marcel Ekkel), and they do it in a pretty radical way. Not only do they show the actual and past air pollution index, but also the economic loss because of this and the number of premature deaths and hospital visits. Not a pretty picture either. I hope the government will start working on a solution soon. I am lucky to have the option to leave, but many people can’t do so.

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  1. Come to Singapore mate – pretty flawless here (as is most of the city, including its personality unfortunately)

  2. One of many reasons why I packed our stuff and moved back to Germany when Emily was born. If you can, give your children something better. Remembering my own childhood made it seem impossible for me to stay there any longer.

  3. HI Marc, It is quite disturbing indeed. I would never want to raise a family in Shanghai with this bad air.
    Do you use Air purifiers or do you have any experience with them?
    I heard about Blue air, air purifier. Do you know any good ones?

  4. Thanks for posting this article! My wife and I have wanted to return to Shanghai / Hong Kong to work in the future, but your post has reminded us of the bad air – we haven’t been back in some time and had forgotten.

    It saddens me to see the air quality worsening instead of improving.

  5. Thank you Marc for posting this. My husband and I are currently discussing a move from the US to Shanghai for 2 years. We would be moving a 3-year-old and 4-month-old. The pollution is my #1 concern (air, water, food). This is very helpful.

  6. Marc, I used to think I was the only person that sees what you see, feels how you feel. I am leaving shanghai for the very same reason . After 4 yrs. I’m also disappointed at myself for ever putting money ahead of my health. This place has disgustingly bad air. Back to Canada.

  7. Lived there for 4.5 years too. It was killing me. Not only the Air but also water, even for showering. And food. And noise.

    To me, Shanghai / China is not able to provide the 4 most fundamental elements for living (air, water, food and silence). Therefor you should avoid whenever can going there is my advise.

    Just like Marc stated, unfortunately Hong Kong is too close to China. Singapour is indeed the best of all.

  8. @Bas – Regarding noise I don’t agree, it totally depends on where you live. I live in a compound where I wake up from the birds in my garden in the morning, I don’t hear any cars or other noise. Before that I lived in a 37th floor apartment in Xujiahui that was very quiet as well. Food: I partially agree, I now mainly buy imported food because I don’t trust Chinese food anymore, esp. for my kids. It’s much more expensive, but not something to worry about. Water I am not sure, I guess I’m used to it. It’s the same all over Asia, as long as you don’t drink it you should be fine. I also like Singapore, but that has other disadvantages: decent villa’s are twice as expensive as Shanghai and a regular car is 3-4 times as expensive as in the US.

  9. Nice blogs you have! Air purifiers can be a great investment you make while living here in China. Lets not let the bad pollution take over our lives, and lets start to take control of our indoor environment!!

  10. Since I moved to SH in 2006 and start my work here, I always concerned about the air quality here because back to my hometown, the air is superb and you can even smell the fragrance of the earth and tree if you go a place near the Yellow river( I am from the central part of Northern china, a small village), but here in SH the air is, well, everyone knows that.

    I am currently working at Blueair now and I like this air purifier very much because after you turned on the machine you can really smell the cleaner air as if you are in a forest and you can see the particle matters in the air dramatically reduced by this purifier.

    If anyone who wanna have an air quality testing at your home or office then you can contact with me and I will be at your service at any time.

    Here are two videos that I uploaded to youku for your reference.