In response to international criticism, with much of it coming from the United States, the Chinese government announced on Friday that it would initiate stricter air pollution standards for Beijing by the end of the month. Residents of Beijing, foreigners and natives alike, have long complained that the Chinese government routinely understates the severity of the problem, with many relying on the United States embassy’s official figures instead. Under the more “U.S. like” standards, Beijing officials will begin reporting on the level of tiny floating particles — 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less, known as PM 2.5 — that doctors warn can more easily settle in the lungs and cause respiratory problems and other illnesses. As we reported earlier, China has only reported on the levels of much larger particles—10 micrometers or more. Liu Xianshu, the director of the city’s equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that they would start reporting the readings of the PM 2.5 at the start of the Chinese New Year, which falls on January 23rd. This appears to be a reversal from a statement last month made by Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian

that the government agency would not begin using stricter standards until 2016. HTH Worldwide, sponsor of Healthy Travel Blog, processes dozens of allergy and respiratory related claims from travelers to Beijing, many of whom had no prior history of either type of illness. Ear, nose and throat specialists in Beijing appear to do a very brisk business removing nasal polyps and expanding sinus cavities of those afflicted with conditions aggravated by heavy pollutants, while pulmonologists are quite busy taking care of asthmatics and those with chronic lung disease who struggle with frequent exacerbations. HTH consultants in China routinely advise those with severe seasonal allergies and lung conditions to have adequate medications for their trip to Beijing. Photo by egorgrebnev.

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About The Author

Frank Gillingham, M.D. serves as Chief Medical Director for HTH Worldwide. Frank has led HTH Worldwide's international business development efforts in Europe and Canada and has been a guest speaker at international business conferences and has authored a series of articles on travel medicine, including pieces on travel information available on the Internet and the role of physicians working with travel insurers. Frank is a Board-Certified Internist and Emergency Medicine Specialist. He is also a private emergency physician in Southern California and a former emergency department director and member of the UCLA emergency department staff. Frank completed residency training at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, received his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania .

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