Photo of the dust storms hitting Beijing from Xinhua
My throat’s been killing me this whole week – and while I at first thought it was the onset of some sort of sickness, I haven’t gotten weak or feeble yet. This morning, I finally realized the culprit: those damn Northern sandstorms.
Beijing has been having some terrible sandstorms recently – its quality air index reached Level 5 as the mix of sand, dust and pollution blasted through the city. It’s gotten so bad that at least one Western publication has declared it an “environmental meltdown!” While I’m glad I’m not there (especially after looking at the photos), it still sucks that it’s reaching the south – Taiwan, Hong Kong… and yes, Shanghai.
Says Shanghai Daily, despite a short lull in the amount of dust being blown our way yesterday, today’s weather warning includes the following advice: “try and avoid light-colored outfits as muddy rain is imminent…”
The Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center said air quality yesterday was good, on the second of a five-level indicator, and much better than between Saturday and Sunday when the dust and sand first arrived.
However, late last night wind brought dust and sand back and it downgraded the level to heavily polluted.
“Rain is a good way to flush and make floating dust fall,” said Chen. “And with continuing winds, dust is being blown out to sea.”
There are some benefits, apparently – nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide both bind to dust particles, so the storm’s managed to lower levels of those two types of particulate matter. Still, it has also sent hundreds to hospitals for allegric reactions and respiratory diseases. So how can you deal with it? Here’s some tips on Suite 101 taken from Australia’s Department of Health (as you may remember, they had some pretty severe storms there last year):
- Stay indoors if possible.
- Keep windows and doors closed and put the air con on.
- If you are driving during a dust storm, go slowly. Pull over to the side of the road if visibility drops. Dust storms cause road accidents. Keep the windows and air vents closed and switch the air con to ‘recirculate’.
- A P2 mask (available online or from pharmacies – [ed note: also called an N95 mask. here’s what it looks like]) will protect you from fine particles; a P3 mask protects against Avian or Swine Flu.
- Avoid high impact exercise routines, particularly if you have a respiratory condition.
People’s Daily had its own tips to share:
1. Take precautionary measures “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Early precautionary measures are better than medical treatment after-the-fact. Viruses and bacteria are prevalent in windy and dry weather. Eye drops and buccal tablets are a good choice, and it is also wise to carry a bottle of water. You can also add glycerin to your nostrils to keep them from getting too dry. Wear a facemask and goggles when going out.
2. Have more water and fruit You are expected to have more water, tea, porridge, soups or fruit juice during the dust storm to maintain the levels of water in your body.
3. Avoid working out in dusty weather It is very bad for your health to workout when there is a sandstorm outside. The inhabitable particles in the air will cause respiratory diseases.
4. Keep appropriate humidity indoors The recommended humidity level amid the sandstorm is 50 to 60 percent, and levels below 30 percent may lead to dry and itchy skin and nasal passages, increasing the potential for respiratory illnesses.
5. Keep your skin clean and balanced Wind and dust may result in loss of skin moisture. Use skin care products before going out to help protect your skin from the wind, dry weather and other harm.
So break out the facial creams, strap on your leftover swine flu masks and remember to keep hydrated. We’ll wear this dust storm out yet!