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Shanghai’s New Air Quality Mascot Cries About Pollution

Shanghai’s Environmental Protection Bureau has a cute new mascot on their website to convey to the public the quality of the air they are breathing each day. It’s a little cartoon girl with pigtails who lets us know how much PM 2.5 particulate matter is in the air with her emotions and hair color. When the air [...]

Shanghai’s Environmental Protection Bureau has a cute new mascot on their website to convey to the public the quality of the air they are breathing each day. It’s a little cartoon girl with pigtails who lets us know how much PM 2.5 particulate matter is in the air with her emotions and hair color.

When the air quality is excellent (0-50), she smiles and squints her eyes, but when the pollution level gets up to 50 she starts to look worried. Over 100, and she looks more than a little irate. Higher than 150 and her eyes start to tear up. Beyond that, she starts crying. Over 330, and she bawls her eyes out.

Her hair color is coordinated with the established color codes for the various air pollution levels, and changes from bright green (best) to maroon (worst).

Today was the kind of day that makes her cry:

shanghai-air-quality-mascot-crying_DCE

No, that picture is not blurry, it’s really what the city looks like tonight beneath the . . . air. Perhaps it’s truly something to cry about.

Shanghaiist wonders what she would have done last week when the air quality in Beijing topped a record high of 900? I suppose it’s good that China doesn’t officially measure air that bad, as an asphyxiated air quality mascot may just be a little too ominous.

Whatever is the case, I have a feeling she’s going to be crying a lot these days.

Graphic from Angel Hsu.

Filed under: China, Pollution

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 89 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3474 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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9 comments… add one

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  • russjstrong February 1, 2013, 6:58 pm

    Wade, this is crazy! Is there even any way to get a break from that bad air, or does it bother you in your home too? I imagine if that smog is just sitting around even if you had AC it’d eventually get through that too. I can’t imagine, makes the air in Southern California seem pristine. Are you worried about your daughter’s developing respiratory system?

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    • Vagabond Journey February 1, 2013, 8:21 pm

      @russjstrong Though the air indoors is truly nothing to brag about, it does tend to be better than it is outside. But a large amount of particulate matter does get inside — it actually builds up as a black layer of soot over everything that’s not handled often. Yes, it’s something that everybody worries about, but thinking about it too much will just make you nuts. You do the little things that you can to deal with it — like wear pollution filter masks when the air is really bad, and then you just need to accept it. The crazy thing is the shear extent to the smog could — there’s no escaping it as it blankets much of the country.

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    • Vagabond Journey February 1, 2013, 8:23 pm

      @russjstrong Though the air indoors is truly nothing to brag about, it does tend to be better than it is outside. But a large amount of particulate matter does get inside — it actually builds up as a black layer of soot over everything that’s not handled often. Yes, it’s something that everybody worries about, but thinking about it too much will just make you nuts. You do the little things that you can to deal with it — like wear pollution filter masks when the air is really bad. The crazy thing is the shear extent to the smog cloud — there’s no escaping it as it sometimes blankets much of the country. But I have to add here that the air has been exceptionally bad lately. It’s not usually like this.

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  • ecoangelhsu February 20, 2013, 6:12 pm

    Hi Wade, I am glad you like my image, but it’d be great if you could link back to me, as I compiled the images, did the translation, and made the image in Photoshop. Thanks, Angel.

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    • Vagabond Journey February 20, 2013, 7:59 pm

      @ecoangelhsu Sorry, I don’t know who you are or what site you run. It was my impression that the image was the creation of the Shanghai’s Environmental Protection Bureau. If you give me your link I’ll include it above. Thanks.

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      • ecoangelhsu February 20, 2013, 8:18 pm

        @Vagabond Journey  @ecoangelhsu This is my original post, and I did make the graphic: http://hsu.me/2013/01/shanghais-new-air-quality-mascot/

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      • ecoangelhsu February 20, 2013, 8:23 pm

        @Vagabond Journey  @ecoangelhsu Also, you link to the Shanghaiist which quotes me and references my post …

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        • Vagabond Journey February 20, 2013, 9:02 pm

          @ecoangelhsu The link has been added. Thanks.

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  • Lisa Lopez April 9, 2013, 11:07 pm

    I was in Beijing when we reached the high pollution peak. I had arrived 2 weeks ago, that’s an impressive way to discover pollution in China. I am not usually too much concerned about my health, but here the problem is quite concerning. I am not staying long, merely 5 months, so I don’t think it will affect my health too much, but the local chinese will probably suffer a lot in the next 10 years from the pollution effect on their lungs and body. I see people wearing masks but not enough in my opinion, or not efficient enough ones. Between the air quality and the spreading of western diet leading to diabetes, I hope the public health service will get better in the years to come, and start distributing free 3M, efficient masks or test people for diabetes in order to prevent it (I tried, the test is quick and wouldn’t cost much to the state : http://us.impeto-medical.com/sudoscan/about-sudoscan/).
    I really hope that China won’t become a polluted land full of sick people but that measures will be taken according to the development of the country.

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