Breathing easy?

2 Dec

When my mother visited China several years ago she said she thought that she could live here, except for the pollution.  I know that Shanghai is better than Beijing, but there are still days here where if I really thought about it, I wouldn’t go outside.  I also have developed an obsession with blue sky days over the last five years as you’ve probably noticed from the photos that I post.

That said inside the house or office there are still things to be scared of.

Over a year ago I wrote that the office building where I work was under construction.  It is still under construction and is an absolute mess. The elevators are periodically closed, one of the temporary entrances is the freight entrance where they store garbage and no matter where you are in the building the smell in the office is terrible.

Sometimes there is a smell of paint or paint thinner, sometimes it smells like something is on fire, sometimes smells from people smoking in the stairwell.  The smells change by day – some days are ok, others really disgusting.

It has gotten so bad that we have given the team the option to work from home – assuming they don’t have meetings.  However, this time of year (our busy season) there are meetings just about every day so it is not really a realistic option.  I really respect my coworkers and their coping mechanism has been to buy face masks and wear them in the office.   Last week I finally bought one as well.

3M may have a captive market!

3M may have a captive market!

I’ve worn it several times, though can’t do conference calls with it as it muffles my voice and doing meetings where half the folks are wearing a mask is still weird.  The hour or so in the morning when I’m alone though – the mask is there and I believe it makes a difference!  I’m not sure if it is the placebo effect or not, but at this point I really don’t care.

As I’ve dealt with this issue over the last few months it has made me angry and it also makes me sad.  Anger that a building management company could be so incompetent and careless about the people inside the building and sad that my coworkers and I really don’t have much other choice.  It is a microcosm of the larger issues in China about quality and construction and whether people are most important or the bottom line.

My new accessory

My new accessory

Our office is looking for another building, but the way contracts go, that will likely be another year.  For the time being – I’m wearing my mask and trying to breathe easy.

What do you think?

10 Responses to “Breathing easy?”

  1. The ABC December 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    I’ve got one of those as well as a really nice neoprene one for the WHS store! Welcome to the club.

    • gkm2011 December 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

      I will likely by another one as this one can really muss up my hair. Not a club I wanted to join unfortunately.

  2. expatlingo December 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    This is really sad. Outside air pollution is certainly one of the hardest things about China, but also suffering from paints, solvents, etc while you’re inside working is really awful. Would air purifiers for the office help at all?

    • gkm2011 December 2, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      That’s the sad part, we already have the purifiers and this is the result. Just pray that the construction will eventually end!

  3. thirdeyemom December 4, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    I think Shanghai is amazing but the pollution would be hard to live with. The mask is really awful too.

    • gkm2011 December 4, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      I know, not a fashion statement I want to make! And the pollution here is better than Beijing!

      • thirdeyemom December 6, 2012 at 5:57 am #

        Oh well. Not much you can do, right. 🙂

  4. sylvia December 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Honestly, this is my least favorite thing about living in China. It probably doesn’t help that I’m married to a guy who’s degree and former job was in handling dangerous stuff. He knows too much, which means, I know too much. I think he would tell you…if possible, stay out of the building as much as possible. And if you can smell a chemical like a solvent…you are being over exposed. Please get fresh air immediately.

    • gkm2011 December 15, 2012 at 9:43 am #

      I know it is a constant struggle and the pollution is my least favorite thing here as well.


  1. The bird flu and staying healthy | 中国 Jumble - April 9, 2013

    […] ubiquitous face masks are back – not against the pollution, but against the flu virus.   They are popping up on […]

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