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JudithO
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Air is awesome right now.  24 hours of 500+AQI.  It's coming down at least a bit, I can see the building across the street now, they were shadows in the smog this morning.  I'm on wechat, feel free to PM for for my info.  Also, I live very close to the Harbin West train station if anyone is traveling into there and wants to be met by an (unknown) friendly face, I'll see if I can be there.

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Even the air in the hallway is awful. The polluted air did something to my eyes I think, I really don't wanna open them in the outside. Those who are gonna come to Harbin, I recommend you to get a mask to cover your mouth. P.s. I've been thinking if I can get a transparent cover for my eyes, too...... Although they say it's because of the coal burning, but I don't remember these bad days happen this often when I was growing up. The environment are not as tolerant as it used to be...

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Wowza, I had heard that there was insane pollution at this time of year in the city, but had pushed it to the back of my mind. Looks like I'll go mask shopping before I set off then!! Does anyone know - how much are air purifiers in Harbin? And are they easy to find to buy? My long term partner has Asthma and will be coming out to visit quite a lot (he's staying in the UK to work), so I'm a bit concerned he might not survive his first visit if I don't get one sorted!!

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I can't speak for Harbin specifically but the North of China should be the same; periods of heavy pollution throughout winter.

You can buy pollution masks in most supermarkets now. I would look for the 3M brand. You can also buy less disposable masks online or in major cities like Beijing (brands like respro or totobobo).

Air purifiers can be made DIY yourself for around 200rmb (just search). These tend to be a bit noisy but as effective as a store bought one. You can buy smaller models by Yadu or Philips for around 800rmb. If you need anything bigger (for large rooms) it would be more expensive. I bought mine on Amazon China.

You should just read the info on http://www.myhealthbeijing.com to learn about masks and purifiers. It's a site run by an American doctor in Beijing. Everything he says health wise applies everywhere though, not just Beijing.

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I am pretty sure 'N90' or 'N95' just states the effectiveness of a mask at filter certain particles, rather than it being a 'type' of mask.

 

If you want actual 'models' or 'brands' ... a test from myhealthbeijing found the following;

 

"There was only one true winner with a Fit Factor over 100, technically “passing” with efficiency far above 99%: the 3M 9332, a disposable which is certified FFP3 in Europe (N99, essentially). With an incredible Fit Factor result of 240 (99.6% efficiency), this was almost too good, as I found it a bit less easy to breathe than with others. But still, on crazy bad pollution days, I think I’ll be using this one. Besides this model, three others passed the threshold Fit Factor over 10 (90% efficiency): the 3M 9501 at 97%; a Vogmask with 95%, and a 3M 9001V at 92%" (source)

 

In two studies by consumer groups in China found 3M to be the best mask, even though it's disposable. Check that out on myhealthbeijing here

 

Anyway, the pollution is easily manageable. It's not a great situation but it's not like it's everyday for 6 months either. At least not crazy 400+ levels

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Back down to about 100AQI today.  My husband and I have masks from http://icanbreathe.com/ and they are comfortable and N95 rated.  We bought them before leaving the US, but I think they will ship internationally.

 

The air does sting your eyes when it gets really bad.  But I don't want to be out more than I have to on those days anyway.

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I spent the whole of winter in Harbin last year. There was one "smogageddon" day last October which was so bad that it even made the news back home in Britain (I heard that the PM2.5 level reached 1000!), but apart from that it wasn't too bad. In fact, I like the winters here better than in London. Snow is much better than rain, and there are blue skies most days, rather than the depressing cover of gray cloud you get in London. But speaking to long-term residents here, they say that last year was the first that had ever experienced that kind of fog before, and this year seems worst than last so far (2 weeks of high level smog rather than 1 day of mega smog followed by clear skies). Unfortunately Harbin seems to be heading the way of Beijing. I've heard lots of theories as to why (more tall buildings, more cars, more industry moved from Beijing, more crop burning), but who knows.

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Actually, the terrible pollution of the past two weeks has made me have a change of plan, so I'm going to be spending the winter somewhere by the beach in Taiwan, rather than in Harbin. This means that my apartment is up for grabs, in case any of you Harbin newbies are looking for onet. It's a one bedroom, one living room apartment, with a little attached kitchen in a modern building with underfloor heating. The bedroom has huge windows on two sides, which catch the sun throught the day (helping to keep it nice and warm). The building is literally right next to a shopping mall (with supermarket) and subway station, so you won't have to stay outside in the smoggy air for too long ;-)  It should be around 2,100 a month. My contract is already up, so you would be siging a new contract with the landlady (who's very nice btw - lots of douchy landlords in Harbin). Harbin's a bit ghetto, so it's nice to have decent place to come to (it's decent by HArbin standards anyway). It took me a long time to find a place I liked, so hopefully I can save someone a lot of time and effort (plus you won't have to pay the half a month estate agent's fee). It'll be available from mid-November. PM me if you're interested.

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Maybe those of us Harbin "old timers" can give the newbies some tips ;-)  I'll give one:

 

In order to avoid a major faux pas in Harbin, NEVER wear a seatbelt when you ride as a passenger in a car. Now, foolish newbie that you are, you might mistakingly assume that, riding on icy roads seemingly full of of cars being driven by drunken suicidal blind people, wearing a seatbelt might be a reasonable precaution. WRONG! In Harbin, it's an even bigger faux pas than sticking your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl. Taxidrivers especially will take it as a calling into question of their very manhood if you so callously express a lack of faith in their ability to get you to your destination alive (while weaving in and out on icy roads at high speed, juumping red lights etc). You'd be lucky if they don't force you to leave the vehicle if you strap up. So, do your bit for foreigner-Harbinger relations and don't wear a seatbelt!

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I'll have a look around for masks before I go, had read some stuff about the Totobobo ones - they just look a bit odd! But then that's better than getting sick with pollution! 

And re: the seat belts thing, really?! Put safety to the side just so they may not feel questioned?! As someone who has grown up with 2 traffic cops as parents who have seen hundreds of deaths through bad driving and negligence in safety, I think that's going to be a bit of a hard call... 

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