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Thought-provoking ‘Beijing cough’

(People's Daily Online)

08:18, January 25, 2013


Key Words:cough; PM2.5; health

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According to the network definition, "Beijing cough" refers to the symptoms of dry cough and throat itching suffered by foreigners when they arrived in Beijing. It is a manifestation of their inability to adapt to the climate of Beijing. The symptoms will appear when they arrive in Beijing but will disappear after leaving the city. Some southerners said that the similar symptoms also appear on them when they came to Beijing or some northern cities.

Despite lack of syntax accuracy, the coinage has become a hot topic of controversy these days. Should it be called "Beijing cough?" Is it reasonable or extremely insulting? What are the points worthy of attention behind the "Beijing cough?"

Although the coinage "Beijing cough" is not a medical term and it also has not a definition and exact syndrome, it is spreading among the public. The coinage has long been popular among foreigners and even was written in some guidebooks by foreigners. Not only foreigners are sensitive to "Beijing cough," people from southern China also suffer from the syndrome, which is caused mainly by the city's dry climate and serious air pollution in recent years.

Doctoral tutor Bai Zhipeng, who is also a researcher at Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, said that the emergence of "Beijing cough" is quite suspected of speculation. "As the air of Beijing has too high concentration of PM2.5 recently, the long-term inhalation of them will indeed cause injury to human respiratory system and other organs. But it is by no means the only reason triggering cough. The abrupt change of climate and bad individual habits such as smoking, overeating and irregular rest time will also induce cough."

Maybe out of love of Beijing, some people feel uncomfortable with the term "Beijing cough." An article published by the Economic Information Daily on Jan. 21 cited doctors' point of view, "Without clear evidences, the words 'Beijing cough' should not be spread because it is an extreme insult to Beijing!"

A few days ago, many cities had suffered heavy smog, and the number of patients suffering from respiratory diseases increased suddenly. A long queue waited at the door of departments of respiratory diseases and pediatrics in hospitals. The number of average daily outpatients approached 10,000 in Beijing Children's Hospital, with 30 percent suffering from respiratory diseases.

The Chinese version of the report "Toward an Environmentally Sustainable Future: Country Environmental Analysis of the People's Republic of China" jointly published by the Asia Development Bank and Tsinghua University on Jan. 14 said that seven of the world's top 10 polluted cities are in China. China has 500 big cities, but only less than 1 percent of them meet the air quality standards established by the World Health Organization. Will the environment become better and diseases disappear if people no longer mention the words "Beijing cough" in the realistic dilemma?

Air pollution is blameworthy for "Beijing cough." Academician at Chinese Academy of Engineering Hao Jiming had pointed out at a recent meeting that the economic and social development especially the rapid development of heavy industry have put tremendous pressure on Chinese environment, and some negative problems are gradually appearing over time. "Environmental pollution is a problem inevitable to any country in its process of development. Therefore, what we can do is to take a correct attitude and seriously curb environmental pollution to guarantee the public have fresh air when they gradually live a better life," Hao said.

About "Beijing cough," we should first think about how to govern our environment, rather than whether it is an insult to Beijing.

Read the Chinese version: 网友称"北京咳"是热爱非侮辱 院士:治理空气污染有突破口

Source:People's Daily Online Chinese Edition, author: Wei Yan.

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