Paying to Breathe: Air Purifiers Selling Out at Record Pace

30pm today. Photo by Jerry Chan

It's day five of what has turned into the worst stretch of air pollution in Beijing on record and judging from the view from our office window as I write this there appears to be no end in sight (or, weather permitting, at least until the winds pick up tomorrow).

State media has made much of Beijing's implementation of its "emergency response plan for hazardous pollution" (which limits traffic and construction on high pollution days) for the first time ever on Sunday - which is all well and good, but considering this alarming statement in The New Yorker's Beijing-based correspondent Evan Osnos's latest blog, these reactive measures are simply not enough to combat the capital's pollution at this point:

For me, the clearest technical measure of the severity came from an environmental-law expert who reported that the closest the United States has ever come to measurements like this was in the midst of forest fires—and Beijing’s level this weekend was far higher than that.

The measures instituted on Sunday included the temporary closure of some of the emission-spewing factories that ring the capital (a move that has proven effective in the past), but what will be done to address this factor in the longer term remains as murky as the air outside. While it's been encouraging to see more official transparency (so to speak) surrounding pollution in general, Beijingers are still awaiting more far-reaching and proactive action (like closing more factories and subsidizing emissions controls) with bated breath.

In the meantime things have been looking great for air purifier retailers across Beijing: China Daily reports a six-fold increase in air purifier sales from the first ten days of January.

Most air purifiers at, one of China's leading e-commerce sites, were sold out by Monday, with only one model, priced at 999 yuan ($161) after discounts, still available.

"We started to run out of stock on Sunday night because orders for air purifiers suddenly flooded in," said Peng Liang, a Gome spokesman.

And if all this smog has got you down on Beijing in general - chin up - we're definitely not alone when it comes to suffering cities.


More on "official transparency":

@zhwj0119 linked to a People's Daily article on Twitter that quotes Beijing Disease Control head Xie Hui as saying "cloth masks are sufficient" for polluted days.

Let's hope this was quoted out of context.

One strap paper masks and ordinary surgical masks has no effect on PM2.5 prevention.

While wearing the N95 mask ensure there is a tight seal around the face. Deeply inhale and exhale to test whether the mask is air-tight."

Jerry Chan, Digital Marketing & Content Strategy Director

On another related note - BeijingKids writer Ellis Friedman, who has worked in the air purifier industry, has an informative post about the ins-and-outs of purchasing an air purifier.

Jerry Chan, Digital Marketing & Content Strategy Director

One more: The Guardian has produced an alarming infographic that details what, exactly, we are breathing.


Jerry Chan, Digital Marketing & Content Strategy Director

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