Respiratory illnesses, environmental problems, not to mention that much of the pollution from Beijing travels across the Pacific to our backyard…


This weekend, my family barricaded itself behind closed doors, with only the briefest of toilet breaks for our dog. As the air pollution in Beijing reached record highs, the view from our 16th-floor downtown apartment dwindled to something more akin to a sandstorm in Afghanistan. Air purifiers that cost upwards of $1,000 ran at full throttle. Still, the haze permeated our living room, with pollution levels some 40 times what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers safe. Our kids climbed on the sofa and played make-believe, pretending they were on a slow boat from China to Thailand, where they were born.

(MORE:Airing Out Beijing: Inner Workings of the World’s Megacities)

On Jan. 14, Beijing authorities held a press conference to address what English-speaking residents have dubbed the Airpocalypse. Zhang Dawei of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau blamed the dirty-dishwater-hued haze on a toxic combination of…

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