Expat residents in Beijing flee toxic pollution levels

Published:  8 Apr at 6 PM
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The record toxicity of Beijing’s winter air pollution is likely to be followed by a massive expat exodus to cleaner air and fresher locations, according to senior expat executives in the city.

Diplomats and the many businesses catering to the vast city’s large expat community are expected to leave as well. It’s not only pollution-wise expats who are planning to leave, as many thousands of Chinese citizens who have arrived in the capital for economic or business reasons are learning more about the effect of chronic pollution on human health.

Educated Chinese and those who have spent time outside the country are jamming China’s social media with strategies for leaving the city as well as reasons why they should go. According to the Sina Weibo microblogging site, one adventurous and wealthy local is running away to a city with cheaper housing and healthcare, better air and less expensive shops – London!

He can hardly be blamed, as readings of the worst type of toxic pollution in Beijing have reached 40 times the World Health Organisation’s safety levels. New methods of accurately reading toxicity in the air have now raised the issue to one of public fury as the damaging effects of the bad air become more noticeable.

A World Bank study undertaken five years ago estimated that China as whole had 400,000 premature pollution-related deaths, and stated the true total was likely to be far higher due to the conservative methodology of the report. Given that pollution in all of China’s major cities is now a problem, with the foul air in Beijing worst of all, the pollution-related death total will have magnified many times since then, with Chinese scientists unable to gain accurate measures of damage to human health due to inadequate data, a fact well-known to the tens of thousands planning to leave.
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