Hazardous air: What goes into your lungs on a bad day in Beijing

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30.05.2013 Peking

You have seen air pollution before, but not in this way. Beijing’s hazardous air is changing the energy outlook of the country, and sending a warning to other countries on the human cost of heavy reliance on coal.

Beijing’s “airpocalypse” in last December and January was an exceptionally serious air pollution episode that is estimated to have caused a 3-fold increase in hospitalizations due to respiratory diseases and has drawn comparisons to London smog in 1952. In that time Greenpeace recruited 16 volunteers to wear a personal air pollution sampler several days each. The samplers simulate human breathing by drawing in air through a nozzle near the volunteer’s head, at a rate close to human breathing. They capture the smallest and most dangerous particles, known as PM2.5, into a filter that can then be sent to a laboratory for analysis.

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