Readers Respond: “What are your major health issues in Beijing?”

My last question from my recent Health Snapshot internet survey was an open-ended one: “What do you feel are your major health issues in Beijing?” Let’s let our readers take over; all 40+ answers are cut-and-paste verbatim except for a couple changes to protect privacy. (You can read part one, part two, and part three as well). Each paragraph is a new response.

Here we go: “What do you feel are your major health issues in Beijing?”

air quality, but i can’t do anything to fix the air so i try not to worry so much. i’ve chosen to live here and that’s part of the cost.

Not getting hit by cars on bicycle commute. Breathing problems when air pollution gets extremely bad. Non-BJ related: physical therapy, but I’ve found a good practitioner here.

Less environmental than social: the tendency of expat social life to take place in bars, and all that that entails. Casual acceptance of drinking that would be considered problematic back home. Smoking (or second-hand smoke exposure) on top of the already putrid air.

Pollution together with the extreme dryness of the air in winter made me have synusitis every single winter since I am living in Beijing! In general, upper respiratory tract infections alway take take much longer to recover from here in Beijing, certainly because of the same reasons.

injury prevention (I have a 2 & 4 year old)- safety standards are lower or nonexistent compared to the US; food safety; infectious diseases (especially low vaccination rates in expat community)

Air pollution is the top concern. Pesticide on vegitables are another. General hygine is not good in Beijing. I get stressed and frustrated often because of all the basic safety issues.

Air pollution, far and away: Have major problems with this, and my coughing rises and falls with the AQI. Allergies, some coming from the pollution, but also from all those willow trees. Basically, Beijing is an all-out assault on my lungs. My wife and I usually eat at home and are careful about buying fruits and vegetables, so this is not as much of an issue for me.

Thank you for focusing on this issue. I have insurance through my job. My son here at a Chinese company has no insurance and we had to switch from your clinic to Peking Union for him, where we felt the drs and nurses were competent and caring.

Definitely air pollution, as the danger is all to obvious every time I look out my window. I worry about food safety, but it’s much harder to gauge the real danger, as the levels of pesticides etc in what I eat aren’t visible.

pollution. This is such a fascinating place to live BUT when the air is amuck my mind goes that way too.

Problems with asthma that developed since coming here, as well the propensity of colds/flus to turn into weeks-long cough nightmares. I’m very concerned about food safety, and will not buy anything that is not organic or imported from a country with real quality standards for food and drink. I will eat out at local restaurants whenever invited by Chinese friends, or will eat whatever they serve me in their homes. But to counterbalance that, I think it very important to eat carefully in my own home and whenever I have charge of the meal.

1) Lack of food/water safety (less concern over getting sick, more concern over heavy metals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, etc. doing long term damage) 2) Air quality, but since we won’t be here longer than 3 years, I feel I can live with it. I had asthma the first month here, but soon got over it. 3) Some fear that in the event of a major health issue quality care will not be available, I’ll end up at a local hospital being extorted by doctors, etc. I carry a pocket list in my wallet of preferred hospitals, but if I get wrecked by a car I probably won’t have much choice in where I end up if it’s bad enough.

Air-pollution, not being ‘close’ to the food sources so not in control of their quality, work-load.

pollution. for my health being better in beijing i count this on eating habits. i’m forced to eat better in beijing as opposed to what i would eat in the states.

Lifestyle issues — living like you’re on vacation even if it’s for a decade; Americans unused to European/Chinese levels of smoking, drinking and lacking experience to partake in moderation; stress;

Pediatric health, dubious local meds and wary of doctors getting cuts and over-prescribing/prescribing unecessary meds

I am glad the expat clinics are here for emergencies; I never go there first if needed; Price is an issue; air is better than 15 years ago; I would never see a Chinese dentist; some Chinese doctors are fine, just as foreign doctors, some of both are no good;

Concerns about bicycle safety and suicidal cabdrivers. Overall I’m feeling pretty healthy, and I have regular massages to help stay that way. I miss my doctor back home and know I should have regular physicals here but the expat hospitals are out of my price range and I don’t speak enough Chinese to go to a local clinic. Friends have had horrific experiences even at the ‘best’ expat hospitals so it makes me wary enough to stay away unless I have an emergency.

The symptoms of my anxiety attacks have grown more severe since I’ve arrived. I’ve gained more and more weight. I’m worried that all the pollution will someday come back to haunt me.

Lifestyle – eating and drinking a lot more. Exercise – unappealing to exercise outside, opening hours and quality of reasonably priced gyms.

Lack of testing facilities in Beijing. Many blood tests cannot be done even in hospitals. The expat clinics are so poor on emergency care and their clinical competency is a big question mark.

Definitely the air quality. I live near major arterial routes and I often experience respiratory irritation – it really feels quite unhealthy, though I’m not sure just how unhealthy it is. The other concern is food since I don’t have many options in terms of what I eat. I survive almost entirely by grazing off the various restaurants in my area, which generally tastes good though I’m unsure as to how good living like this is for me long term. Thirdly I have been avoiding doctors after hearing so many horror stories – prohibitively high prices for international clinics and dubious practices (and language barrier) at regular clinics. Cheers for the blog by the way.

Mental health. I love my life here, but honestly, all these nice food, manicures, massages… extravagant lifestyle is only icing on the cake. Not many outside of the expat circle understands how unstable life is in beijing. i.e. relationships, friendship, jobs, etc. it’s a transient environment. Whereas, physical health, the options are available if you make the effort.

Air pollution & long term impacts despite use of air filters, food safety (ie if I get fruit and veggies from any market- expat or local grocery… Is it really safe??) also, possible health impacts of weather manipulation ( ie- seeding the clouds!)

Food and water safety Continuing with usual preventative checks (eg dentist, mammogram etc. ) – too easy to put off here/know where to go Air pollution

I don’t trust organic food so much, that’s why I don’t buy too much. I believe the organic farms are located very close to traditional farms etc etc, making the organic food not so organic. Food safety and air pollution are my major concerns living here.

I suspect I have heavy metal poisoning as I have all the symptoms. My friend who has been here ten years, got tested overseas last week and was asked if she worked with heavy metals as her toxicity was so high…she’s is marketing!

Availability of alternative treatments like Naturopathy, NAET, certain herbs and vitamins, etc. are limited.

I don’t really feel I have any additional health issues by living in Beijing. While I worry a bit about the pollution, I don’t go out on very bad days and don’t believe it will cause long term health effects. Maybe I have a bit more stress here.

Major Health Issues…crossing the street, getting “clean” food (ie. not with recycled oil, workers actually washing their hands, keeping raw meat refrigerated, etc…), access to excellent ICU in case something terrible happened (we had a friend that almost died from a 60ft drop rock climbing and BUFH couldn’t help him. Had to be flighted to Hong Kong for actual treatment, almost 13 hours later.), being concerned that the paint chipping in our apt is full of lead, concerned about actually how safe is our water (we buy it for 10kuai for the huge water jug 18.9L), and of course the pollution. Oh and I’m neutral about the organic food because is it really organic?

A little more doctors who can explain in English will be better


Air & food (incl. faked food such as fake bottled water)

Air pollution and escaping from the city.

Air quality (I’m have asthma), food safety

Airways – due to pollution

Allergies, Hay fever

Allergies, strep throat, neck pain

Breathing issues, persistent cough

Cheap booze…

Depression in winter, food & pollution, road safety,

Finding suitable natural alternatives to western meds

Food quality, toxic substances encountered in everyday life, air pollution.

I am more concerned about the possible long-term effect of exposure to such bad air quality.

No health issues – never been healthier !

Not knowing if I can trust that things are what they say they are

Organic food in China? Really? Hmm Which official organism control that? Hmm


Pollution, outdoor exercise, worry over insecurity

Problems with my throat, coughing, dry, painfull

Respiratory health; Pollution, dust etc Food cleanliness

Smoking + Pollution Healthy/non-Chinese food is pricey.

air food safety dishonesty about everything … aka fake products

air and water pollution, distrust about the food quality

air pollution

air pollution is my major concern. water my second.

pollution and stress

pollution and traffic safety

sexual diseases? air quality?

the coufing, the pollution

the general lack of hygiene is a major issue

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