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NGO gives masks to help ‘fight for breath’

By Zhang Wen (Global Times)

13:15, January 17, 2013

A volunteer hands a mask to a traffic warden at Xizhimen Wednesday. (Photo: Li Hao/GT)

A Beijing environmental NGO handed out free face masks at subway stations Wednesday to raise awareness of anti-pollution measures.

In this "Fight for a Breath" campaign, 2,000 masks were handed out by 30 staff and volunteers from Friends of Nature (FON) outside Xizhimen, Dongzhimen and Qianmen subway stations.

"One of the things I didn't expect was that when I tried to give the traffic warden a face mask, he told me that his job doesn't allow him to wear it on duty. They are really a vulnerable group," Guo told the Global Times.

All the PM 2.5 masks were donated by a health textile company in Shanghai, said Guo.

Zhang Hehe, deputy director general of FON, said she thinks cleaners and delivery drivers are also vulnerable.

"To my surprise, many of those workers haven't even heard of PM2.5, let alone how to guard against it," said Zhang, "but they are those who suffer most because most of them work outdoors for more than 12 hours a day."

"Few people mentioned coal burning for [winter] heating systems or industrial pollution. Most of the people we spoke to attributed air pollution to traffic," said Zhang.

The leading anti-pollution suggestions from the public include encouraging more people to use public transport or green vehicles, making the environment better for cyclists by treating exhaust fumes from buses and providing bike lanes, and planting more trees in neighboring provinces such as Hebei, Zhang said.

But one passerby surnamed Li, 33, who works in the subway, said that as people get richer and the demand for cars is increasing, the government should not stop people from buying cars, but rather focus on better urban planning.

"Unlike many European cities which have many small streets that can allow traffic to pass through easily, Beijing's traffic is too concentrated on main roads," he said.

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