Beijing Pollution 2021 😷: Everything You Need to Know

Beijing Pollution 2021: China Is Winning The War, But It’s Not Over Yet

When people think of Beijing, a lot of them are bound to start thinking of Beijing pollution and will start imagining grey skies and thick smog. With scenes of the skyline where you can barely make out the shape of Beijing’s skyscrapers.

However, in recent years Beijing has actually made huge improvements to their pollution levels. Don’t get us wrong, they still have a long way to go but here in 2021 you really are starting to see the difference.

Beijing Pollution – What is it Actually Like Now?

China is winning the war with pollution
China is winning the war with pollution

Having gone through the past few summers with minimal Beijing pollution on most days, it was almost easy to forget that on some days Beijing is one of the world’s more polluted cities.

Sure, there were days when the AQI would creep over the normal line and into orange.

But, there were more blue skies than not in Beijing in the summer of 2020.

Though, as winter rolls around and the fierce colds of the Beijing winter start to blow in, Beijingers and people all over Northern China turn to coals for heating – one of the reported reasons for pollution being such an issue in the North of China.

It is still one of China’s most high profile environmental problems.

  • Beijing Pollution: Blue Days
  • Beijing Pollution: Beijing's CBD in mid October 2018

The government are doing a lot to tackle it, particularly in Beijing. But like any problem, it takes a while to solve and the Beijing smog is not something that is going to disappear entirely over night.

However, you can see in the chart below how things have been improving over the past 10 years.


But, when the days come and the reality of Beijing smog  settles in like a yellow cloud of dirt over Beijing city (or rather, literally exactly like that), just how do you cope with life in Beijing as an expat, battling the Beijing air pollution?

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Beijing Pollution – China air pollution & Beijing air quality

Despite a few anomalies this year, the Beijing smog has been comparatively good compared with previous years.

It seems that gone are the winters where you will spend most of the time hidden behind a mask due to the Beijing air quality being too bad to be able to see much of a distance in front of you.

CBD - China Central Place
CBD – China Central Place

Only once (or maybe twice) did the CCTV tower disappear behind clouds of Beijing smog this year.

However, there have been a few times that its glass exterior has needed a good cleaning post-Beijing pollution bout.

There were a couple of instances when the AQI went over my mobile’s upper limit of 500.

There was “that sandstorm” near the end of winter that caused the Beijing air quality to go off all of the China air pollution scales at over 999+…

Sandstorms happen a couple of times a year, most often in spring when sand is blow in from the desert in neighbouring Inner Mongolia.

Want to have an insight all the pollution in China?

Unfortunately, I did have to go outdoors on that particular day. I remember consuming probably what is considered as way too much sand (although I suppose any quantity of sand is too much sand to be consumed). 

Hopefully the improving Beijing air quality trend will continue over the months and years.

And it’s important to know how to look after yourself on the days that are particularly bad, even if the majority of your days in Beijing are getting blue-er.

Beijing Pollution – Staying Healthy in the Beijing Smog (5 Step Guide)

Due to the health risks of prolonged exposure to pollution, long-term Beijing residents need to prepare for possibility of smog days, like it or not:

Whether you’ve just arrived in Beijing, are preparing for a move to China, or you’ve been an expat here for a while, you can always find new ways to beat the pollution in Beijing.

If you have any more of your own ways or specific rituals do let us know in the comments below!

1. Understand the China Air Pollution AQI

Firstly, learn how to know how polluted it is outside (without just looking out of your window).

China air pollution is measured using a number, and easy to understand colour system.

The number system is much more in depth and can get a bit complicated, with different numbers representing different types of air pollution (yes there’s different types – some more harmful than others).

If you’re just after knowing whether to leave the house with a mask on or not, all you need to understand is the colour system. Which is pretty self-explanatory.

beijing pollution

It still has a long way to go, and coping with China air pollution is something that expats have to deal with pretty regularly for those living in Beijing.

That said, speak to long term expats in Beijing and they’ll tell you it’s only getting better in the city.

There is genuine light at the end of the tunnel and the war with air pollution is one China is winning.

2. Wear a Pollution Mask

Once you’ve figure out what level the pollution is, if it happens to be a bad day then it’s time to put on a pollution mask.

And we’re talking about a pollution mask here, not one of the surgical masks which have become a part of daily life now we’re living in a post- Covid China.

Yes, it’s annoying and the more high quality pollution masks are not the most attractive piece of attire. It’s uncomfortable and arguably makes breathing more difficult…

Some of them can also make you look like Bane from the Batman films 😂

But wearing a pollution mask (a good one, not just a cheap one…) will save your lungs a lot. Follow the AQI chart’s guidelines to find out which days you should wear a mask.

Bottom line is – it’s not a “fashion is pain” situation here.

If the AQI is high, wear a pollution mask. Plus, Chinese people (as well as foreigners!) don’t care. Wearing a mask may not be normal in your culture but it’s nothing out of the ordinary in Beijing.

For us ladies, it means you can forget your make up in the morning and have a lie in!

3. Buy an Air Purifier

Pollution in Beijing - Get Air Purifiers
Pollution in Beijing – Get Air Purifiers

It’s worth investing in an air purifier to clean out the air in your house on a polluted day.

As let’s face it you don’t want to be wearing your mask inside all day.

There are plenty of options when it comes to purifiers.

You could invest in a well-known brand, such as Xiaomi. These can be more expensive, but they’re effective and some models come with a built in pollution-omiter.

You can watch as the air in your home gets cleaner.

There are also some very effective budget options for filtering your air at home. SmartAir is a well known Beijing social enterprise which makes effective and reliable purifiers for those on a budget. Perfect if you’re a student.

4. Stay Indoors

Alright, this one is boring and kind of the last option. If Beijing is having an especially bad day and the pollution is serious it is advised that people stay indoors.

You can turn up your air purifier to max power.

You should usually listen to this advice, especially if you are particularly affected by the pollution i.e. have asthma. You can take advantage of China’s awesome food takeout apps and have a movie & food binge Beijing smog night.

You should avoid exercising when pollution levels are high, and if you have to go for a jog try and stay away from high-traffic areas and wear a mask.

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5. Head Out of Town!

Why not take the opportunity of a forecast of a bad bout of bad pollution to take a long weekend and get out of the city?

Sometimes you’ll find that smaller cities close by will have a much better AQI.

Or if you’re sick of city life, head far off completely down South to the mountains landscapes of Guilin, or any of China’s beautiful scenic corners. We can also recommend a language trip to Beihai, where you can enjoy sunny beaches and learn Chinese.

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Beijing Pollution – Beijing Pollution Forecast

A good way to stay smart and be prepared for the China air quality to come is to by frequently checking the Beijing pollution forecast.

This is just like you would do with a normal weather forecast.

There are many websites you can use to check the Beijing air pollution and Beijing smog situation.

Many of them contain all of the basic information, with some containing more detailed and accurate information than others.

Popular websites include;

PumeLabs – Pollution in Beijing

AQICN – Beijing Air Quality Forecast 

World Air Pollution index – Use this one to check the AQI around the world.

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What is the Weather in Beijing Really Like // The Truth Revealed

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Beijing Pollution – FAQs

How bad is the pollution in Beijing?

In the past Beijing had record beating levels of bad pollution, however in recent years the situation has improved a lot. Although Beijing still has a long way to go, in 2020 there were more blue sky days than polluted days. Beijing also no longer ranks inside the top 200 most polluted cities according to IQAir.

Is Beijing polluted?

Yes and no. In recent years Beijing has made huge improvements to their pollution problem, however it is still an issue, especially in the winter months when the city relies on coal for heating. In IQAir’s latest study, Beijing actually now ranks just outside of the top 200 most polluted cities, placing at number 201.

Why is Beijing so polluted?

In the past Beijing was dominated by coal-combustion, factories and motor vehicles which led to a big pollution problem. In recent year the Chinese government have introduced many measures to reduce the pollution. According to IQAir, Beijing actually now ranks outside of the top 200 most polluted cities, coming in at number 201.

What is the most polluted city in the world?

This varies depending on which source you look at, according to IQAir the most polluted city in the world is Ghazibad India. Beiing on the other hand has been placed at 201 on their list.

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