Portable air filter for North China smog

« previous post | next post »

Ad in the Beijing subway:

From "A Beijing subway ad gives a glimpse at a dystopian future".  Be sure to watch the 12 second Instagram video posted by Chas Pope that shows a bank of AQI400+ (!!) smog rolling into Beijing — within 20 minutes.  Truly mind-boggling!  The exhaust from all those cars tearing down the ring roads is one of the main causes of Beijing's pollution.  Together with all the coal that is burned dirty, it's a recipe for airpocalypse.

When I first saw the ad, I thought that this purifier (note that they don't call it a mask) was satirical, but apparently it's a real thing and is made by Beijing Digital Grid Technology Co., Ltd.  Several friends in Beijing told me that they had seen the ad in the subway.

Here's what it says:

wúwèi fàngsì hūxī 无畏放肆呼吸 ("breathe without fear wantonly / audaciously / presumptuously / impudently / for all you're worth")

fáng wùmái 防雾霾 ("anti-smog")

HEPA gāoxiào lǜxīn HEPA 高效滤芯 ("HEPA high efficiency filter")

zhìnéng hùwài 智能户外 ("intelligent for outdoors")

biàn xiédài 便携带 ("conveniently carried")

Xīnfēng suíshēn kōngqì xiá 忻风随身空气匣 ("Joyful Wind portable airbox")

gāoxiào suíshēn kōngqì jìnghuà qì 高效随身空气净化器 ("high efficiency portable air purifier")

Here's an unboxing of one of their products.

I'm going to urge all my friends in Beijing and other North China cities, especially the joggers, to purchase one of these devices.  I hope that they're not too awfully expensive.

As VPNs are to the Chinese internet, so air filters and purifiers are to North China smog.

[h.t. Gene Hill; thanks to David Moser and Joel Martinsen]


  1. John Rohsenow said,

    January 5, 2017 @ 8:41 pm

    A friend long resident in Beijing wrote:
    The same ad is on buses too, those big wrap-around ads covering the outside of the bus.

  2. Oliver said,

    January 6, 2017 @ 5:33 am

    Hi Victor,

    actually these apparatuses are sort of a dernier cri in Beijing, since the filter effect of the 3M masks is definitely mostly psychological only. The current high AQI average requires something more powerful, so the filtering mechanism is "outsourced" to the box attached to your arm. My observations for the last two months in the capital: this thing sells quite well with the tech-savvy young-to-middle-aged male urbanite, since it definitely is a step towards looking more like a Borg and besides the Queen they surely were an all-male troop, weren't they?

  3. flow said,

    January 6, 2017 @ 7:31 am

    That rather intimidating bank rolling into the city does look more like an incident of hwangsa 황사 (黃沙, 黃砂, "yellow dust / sand / wind", wind-borne sand from the Gobi desert) to me. I always thought that smog is a product of human habitation, so how can it come rolling in from the plains? I take it that dust particles from the Gobi are an important ingredient of whatever darkens the skies over large portions of East Asia, that those particles are unhealthy, and that the dust aggravates the impact of other air pollutants such as smoke and exhausts; but in and by themselves, they do not qualify as smog, do they?

  4. George said,

    January 6, 2017 @ 9:35 am


    7 of 9 never struck me as being particularly male-looking…

  5. howagreg said,

    January 6, 2017 @ 2:40 pm

    Flow — You're right that smog is generally (but not always) an anthropogenic issue. It's a vague term, but usually includes ozone (primarily a byproduct of fossil use combustion) and very small particulates (often diesel). Sands tend to be pretty large particles, so less dangerous, but any sand from the Gobi — or the Sahara — that makes it to NE China will by nature by on the finer side. That adds to the burden, but it is usually the fossil fuel sources that are the worst.

    The picture is a little yellowish, but seems consistent with real smog. See for instance this picture from Boston (1999). Most of the worst air pollution in NE China is certainly from human sources.

  6. Terry Hunt said,

    January 6, 2017 @ 10:48 pm

    Turning from the meteorological to the sociological (language-smanguage!), I'm puzzled that a Chinese ad in a Chinese city for a Chinese product apparently portrays a white western woman using it. Is this a general phenomenon (with an implication of foreign = "classy" or "better"), or has it a more particular implication in this specific instance?

  7. Victor Mair said,

    January 7, 2017 @ 12:12 pm

    @Terry Hunt

    There is an eccentric, iconoclastic "writer, social commentator, historian, and independent politician" in Taiwan named Li Ao (b. 1935). He was a prolific author and publisher, and I used to read his newspapers, journals, and books back in the 70s and 80s. He was an advocate of nude photographs in publications when that was considered scandalous in society on the whole. He practiced what he preached, and so there were many nudes in his publications. The odd thing, however, is that all the nudes he showed were Caucasian women. That really bothered me, so I wrote to him and asked why he never published photographs of beautiful Chinese nudes. Although he and I exchanged many letters on this and numerous other similar issues, he never gave me a straight answer to any of my questions, always replying with sarcasm and caustic wit.

  8. John Bell said,

    January 10, 2017 @ 4:11 am

    I honestly didn't even notice it was a white model at first, since the mask was obscuring her facial features. Seems like a pretty crafty marketing trick come to think about it.

RSS feed for comments on this post