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Surprising Science

Protecting Children In China’s Polluted Urban Areas

From air filters in classrooms to sports domes covering school fields to bans on outdoor field trips, residents are doing everything they can to safeguard children from the effects of a worsening pollution crisis. Some are just leaving.

What’s the Latest Development?

With air pollution levels in Beijing and other major Chinese cities at record highs in the last few months, parents and others are finding themselves consumed with anxiety over the health of their children. Some are choosing schools based on the level of built-in environmental safety measures, such as air filtration systems. In response, administrators are canceling field trips and outdoor physical education classes on bad days, or — in the case of two elite schools — building synthetic domes over their athletic fields so students can exercise regardless of the weather or the air quality. And face masks “are now part of the urban dress code.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Despite plenty of research linking air quality to health outcomes for children and fetuses, the Chinese government doesn’t seem to be doing enough to rectify the problem. In fact, analysts predict that coal and gas emissions will increase in the next decade. This has only stoked the fires of fury and distrust among urban residents, and has caused some Chinese and non-Chinese expatriates to leave the country entirely. Even people who were thinking of coming to China for work at the US State Department are reconsidering, and a salary “hardship bonus” of between 10 and 30 percent isn’t swaying them.

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Read it at The New York Times


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