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Pollution gives expats a chance to air their concerns

(China Daily)

09:00, February 08, 2013

Air pollution has become an increasing important issue for expats when deciding whether to live and work in Beijing. (China Daily/Jin Wen)

Beijing's attractions shrouded by haze of anxiety, report Tang Yue, Jiang Xueqing, He Na in Beijing and Shi Yingying in Shanghai.

Usually, when people decide to live in a foreign country, two contrasting factors are uppermost in their minds - work opportunities and distance from family and friends.

However, for expats in Beijing, air pollution has become an increasingly important issue after weeks of lingering, severe smog.

On the upside, Beijing's booming economy, diverse culture and long history, Chinese cuisine and interesting people all combine to lure an ever-increasing number of foreign residents; there were approximately 100,000 in 2012, a rise of around 50 percent from 2006.

On the downside is haze, haze and haze, with record high levels of PM2.5 - particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter that can enter the lungs and bloodstream, making it dangerous to human health.

January was the worst month for pollution since 1954 with five days free from smog and haze. Few residents expect the problem to be eradicated in the near future.

That harsh reality has prompted many of those who traveled thousands of kilometers to live in the city to reconsider their choice.

"I have an inner conflict because Beijing is my home, but my home is lethal, very unhealthy. So I'm very torn because of my love of living and working in Beijing. Everything about it makes me so happy," said Alison Friedman, 32, who has lived in the city for 11 years.

"Whenever any of my friends or family in the US asks me about Beijing or living in China, I say I love everything except the pollution. It's the only thing that makes me hesitate about what I'm going to do long term."

She has considered Guangzhou as an alternative location because the capital city of Guangdong province has the same kind of cosmopolitan, professional energy as Beijing, but crucially also has cleaner air.

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