In China, Breathing Becomes a Childhood Risk

As severe smog becomes a fact of life for people living in Beijing and other Chinese cities, families with young children are hardest hit, Edward Wong reports for the New York Times. Many families, both Chinese and foreign, are finding ways to relocate elsewhere:

There are no statistics for the flight, and many people are still eager to come work in Beijing, but talk of leaving is gaining urgency around the capital and on Chinese microblogs and parenting forums. Chinese are also discussing holidays to what they call the “clean-air destinations” of Tibet, Hainan and Fujian.

“I’ve been here for six years and I’ve never seen anxiety levels the way they are now,” said Dr. Richard Saint Cyr, a new father and a family health doctor at Beijing United Family Hospital, whose patients are half Chinese and half foreigners. “Even for me, I’ve never been as anxious as I am now. It has been extraordinarily bad.”

He added: “Many mothers, especially, have been second-guessing their living in Beijing. I think many mothers are fed up with keeping their children inside.”

Few developments have eroded trust in the Communist Party as quickly as the realization that the leaders have failed to rein in threats to children’s health and safety. There was national outrage in 2008 after more than 5,000 children were killed when their schools collapsed in an earthquake, and hundreds of thousands were sickened and six infants died in a tainted-formula scandal. Officials tried to suppress angry parents, sometimes by force or with payoffs.

But the fury over is much more widespread and is just beginning to gain momentum.

See also an interview in the Toronto Star with pioneering environmentalist Ma Jun about the prospects for a cleaner environment in China.

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